2014 is the year of the Linux desktop

Linux has unexpectedly made it to the desktop through mobile and cloud, but the unintended consequences are troubling

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Sheer force of numbers from those three areas -- Google Apps adoption, Chrome OS growth, and the spread of Android and Android-based devices -- tell me the year of the Linux desktop has finally arrived.

I'm sure there will be objections from people who want to define "the year of the Linux desktop" differently. There will be those fans of GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu who will object that the Linux Desktop has not arrived until we're all running KDE and Gnome. I fear those folks have a while to wait. Others will object because there are still so many copies of Windows and new PCs are still shipping with Windows. That's a fair point, but I believe even those users are actually Linux Desktop users. As I argued last year, Linux has already won on the Windows desktop.

Think about it: When did a new process or service you wanted to use last come as a Windows application download? When it did, what actually was that application? An increasing number of desktop applications are just containers for HTML5 Web apps. The real powerhouse behind those apps is usually Linux, accessed over the Internet, along with other elements of the modern LAMP stack. In a very real sense, the applications many use daily for email, documents, presentations, and more are Linux desktop applications. A fanatical obsession with replacing Windows made for interesting discussion, but while that debate was happening, all the work on the desktop moved inside the browser window.

The pushback argument for which I have sympathy is the argument about freedom. For many, the future of the desktop is less about the specific software and more about who has control. Whether you use Chrome OS, Android, MacOS, or Windows, more and more software is being mediated by app stores that frequently discriminate against open source. Functions are being delivered through JavaScript that has no license terms and thus can't be open source. Worst of all, surveillance is rife, and the Web-delivered nature of the new desktop makes it trivial to conduct blanket surveillance.

Even given these caveats, I personally am persuaded: 2014 is the year of the Linux desktop, at long last. Moving the center of computing to the cloud turned out to be an integral part of that. Now we need to work on reversing the tide of blanket surveillance.

This article, "2014 is the year of the Linux desktop," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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