Saw a story on OpenOffice 3 today which reminded me of a question I been asking myself recently. What does the free desktop need to grow in market share?
Up to this point I guess I my thinking about the free desktop (grouping GNOME, KDE, XFCE etc. as one) and its growth has mostly been about seeing it as a dam filling up. The mass migrations from Windows would be trickling in slowly until at some point we have added enough features and polish to the free desktop for the dam to break. Kinda like how linux in the server space lived many years without a lot of adoption outside academia and or specific fields before suddenly becoming an ‘overnight’ success.
But at this point I am not so sure anymore. I mean is what holding us back from rapid gains in marketshare really just better MS Word import in OpenOffice? Or better support for exchange servers in Evolution? Or better drawing tools in Inkscape and Gimp? Or better support for muxing Quicktime files in GStreamer? Or improved ways of embedding a blingy clock widget into the desktop background? Or just adding an application that can do XYZ? Or is it the lack of a good driver for hardware ZYX? Sure these questions are part of the answer, but I can’ t help but wonder if they are a smaller part than I have given them credit for so far.
I have sometimes seen the lack of games being mentioned, but the Windows game market is suffering terribly these days, caught between piracy and console dominance. So if people care about games I think they probably got themselves a Wii, PS3 or Xbox360 to satisfy that need. So I can’t see lack of game support as being the tipping point either.
Not that there isn’t progress made. There are good migration stories out there from the major Linux vendors and PC makers like Dell do seem to try to offer better sales support for Linux desktop systems. But I can’t help but feel that we might be missing something in terms of understanding what needs to happen for the market share to grow more rapidly. And if we don’t diagnose the issue we will not be able to resolve it.