The desktop question …

Aaron writes about “Desktop Linux” and calls it a rant :). It was worth the trouble I took to read it on the phone browser – the internet connection at home is down and Airtel won’t surely get a cookie from me.

The game of Linux on the OEM desktop is primarily driven in two ways: Preloaded or Drop-in-the-box. In most cases, the OEMs who decided not to be shipping preloaded Windows on a few select OEM models used FreeDOS instead. Over the years, some of them also provide a very functionally crippled version of Linux. However, there is a large percentage of them like Dell, HP, HCL, Wipro who either preload Linux or provide drop-in-the-box. The fun bit about doing desktop linux is that the hardware SKU is a small bit faster moving than the server platform. This page would provide an at a glance view of how the OEM market is going to be pertaining to Intel. An inevitable fallout of a fast moving hardware SKU is that slapping on a base Operating System that is a bit dated would be counterproductive. Add to that the inevitable cases of codecs, binary firmwire and it is a fine soup.

A way out for Linux distributions aiming to be preloaded on to desktop hardware is to diligently work with OEMs and ODMs at all levels to check, re-check and check again the functionality of the base OS with respect to the target hardware. While this was a well honed practise in server space, the desktop niche did start to receive base OS engineering love only with the predominant uptake of Linux on the desktop for more than SOHO usage. So, it is not really unusual to see more love being showered on the desktop space in terms of visions and achievable roadmaps like these. But in an ideal world it would take much more than distributions to be interested into desktop enhancement bits. It would really require an extensive formation of a community (oh such an abused word).
The hardest bit is to convince the IHV/OEM to invest heavily into engineering and code-push that makes the hardware of today and tomorrow not only JustWork (TM), but provide a sustaining engineering investment. The Red Hat Global Desktop is just one of the steps along these lines. The thing about a Linux desktop is that it is significantly user experience driven than driven by performance specifications. So, while performance focus would lead to specific FOSS projects polishing up the code base, an user experience focus would require an all out effort based on a good plan. The perception shift is driven by code contributions at all levels of the OS : the kernel, the desktop environment, the IM and IRC clients, the browser and mail clients, the artwork and the bling bits which get talked about. One of the best things that could have happened to a Linux desktop is that it stopped being compared to Windows – one hardly gets to read about “this desktop is so similar to my Windows desktop” and that’s a good thing when one shifts the focus from being relevant in the perspective of competition to being relevant in itself. In effect, the question could well be – what is the metaphor that we now for lack of a better word call a Desktop ?