Thu, 15 Dec 2005

I keep seeing all this blather about what desktop Linus uses. Now, I of course disagree with Linus; I won’t go into the details why because they have been rehashed 10,000 times already, though if you must know, the two images in Jimmac’s blog capture it better than anything I can say.

That said, it just doesn’t matter. GNOME, KDE, Windowmaker, whatever… none of them are actually innovating in a way that will help the Free desktop win. Hands down, everyone seems to agree right now that OS/X is the most powerful, most stable, and easiest to use desktop on earth. And you know what? No one except a couple million digerati cares. MS sells more copies of Windows in a good month than OS/X does all year, and I’m sure more copies of Windows are stolen in a good week worldwide than OS/X sells all year. The only reason OS/X is at all relevant right now has nothing to do with software- it has to do with the little white things in millions of people’s ears. So… so what if GNOME is easier to use than KDE, or if KDE is more powerful than GNOME? If the magic code fairy created KNOME tomorrow and gave KNOME 10% more power and 10% more ease of use and 100% more Freedom than OS/X, we’d be the best end-user operating system in the world, and we’d still be losing. And we’d still continue to lose, because OS/X and Windows are good enough, and we still don’t have a killer app- a killer innovation– that will make people switch, much less that will make people overlook our problems with wireless drivers, legacy software, .doc/.xls/.ppt import/export, DVDs and mp3s, etc. In the end, yeah, maybe GNOME is better than KDE, or maybe KDE is better than GNOME, but neither is very persuasive- best case scenario for both for the vast majority of users is ‘well, that is good enough so that I can sacrifice and get away from the hell that is Windows.’ That is pretty sad. Until one of the desktops crosses that magical line, and makes large numbers of people really excited- really passionate– about the Linux user experience, the difference between the two doesn’t really matter all that much.

So if you’re tempted to pound out another line of argumentation about whether GNOME is better, or KDE is better, or what have you, go write code for something that actually makes Linux a clear, innovative leader in something, even if there is a risk that innovation will fall flat on its face. Think of an idea that will make your mother or your father or your non-technical siblings say ‘wow, that rules- I must switch to Linux so I can have that!’ And then go implement it. Hell, do a half-assed job. Just do something new and different, and share it with the world so others can run with it, adjust it, or maybe just worship it because you got it right the first time. Don’t go tweak KDE a little more to beat GNOME, or tweak GNOME a little more to beat KDE. Do something new. Do something exciting. Get us out of our rut.

[As an aside, because I didn’t blog about it when I saw it- this is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. This was new, this was different, it was doing things no other OS is doing right now. Was it perfect? I’m sure not. Can it be improved, possibly by merging it with other features, adding here, trimming there? I’m sure. Is it something lots of people should be experimenting with whenever the code is released? Absolutely. And I listed several other ideas like it way back in April– things that could be explored, implemented, played with- things that would make us different and potentially better than everyone else. What are you doing to make that a reality?]