The Linux desktop is already the new normal

We're so busy seeking release from Windows that we overlooked all the ways Linux had already freed us

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The Linux desktop is called "the browser"

While we were all waiting for the open source community to topple Microsoft's desktop monopoly by replacing the operating system, we missed the real revolution. There's still plenty of money in both operating systems and in desktop apps, and Microsoft will be milking that legacy monopoly for a good while. It's certainly been the target of competitive attention from open source software; indeed, the productivity suite now epitomized by LibreOffice has over its long history done an effective job in opening up that part of Microsoft's monopoly.

But most enterprise expenditure doesn't happen on the desktop. Maybe it's software Stockholm Syndrome making us all love our captor, but the focus on desktop applications, coupled with the idealistic expectation that Windows will be displaced, has led many to overlook or even dismiss the category where Linux actually has taken over the desktop.

That's in the browser. 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.

In turn, that desktop revolution has fueled -- and been fueled by -- Linux in portable devices. In that space, Linux is definitely winning globally, both by powering multiple device platforms such as Android and Kindle and by powering many of the applications found on those devices. Tools like PhoneGap allow the developer to take the same Linux-powered back end and use it for both desktop/browser apps and for device-specific apps. The result? Linux is everywhere, even on iOS.

It was natural to assume the wedge to displace Microsoft's desktop monopoly would be something that did the same thing. Futurists have long made their predictions by describing the present wearing Spandex. When it comes along, the new reality often looks different from the future we expected. So we still have no flying cars, food still doesn't come in pill form -- and the Linux desktop is actually running in your browser.

The year of the Linux desktop came long ago and we missed it. We were expecting it to displace Windows; instead, it has displaced the Windows desktop application, powered the reinvention of the mobile market, and in the process done more for us all than the revolution we expected could ever have delivered.

This article, "The Linux desktop is already the new normal," 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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