The Year of Linux/FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD on Desktops May Never Come. But We've Done Even Better
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash
For over 20 years, periodically, the same question arises: "Could next year be the year of Linux on desktops?". Or, similarly: "Could next year be the year of FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD on desktops?" Despite the repetition of these questions, the answer remains unchanged: no, I don't believe that next year (where "next" can be inserted into a "while true;") will be the year of Linux/FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD/etc. on desktops. However, we've conquered the world all the same, just in different ways.
The operating systems are different, the question is the same, and the outcome is identical. To better understand why these operating systems haven't dominated the desktop market, it's helpful to examine the evolution of the tech industry over the past few decades. While the desktop market has always been dominated by giants like Microsoft and Apple, Linux and FreeBSD have found their success in other devices and platforms.
Anyone with an Android phone effectively has Linux in their hands. Android is based on the Linux kernel, and thanks to its immense popularity, has brought Linux into the pockets of billions of people worldwide. Likewise, anyone with an Apple device, such as an iPhone or a Mac, has a BSD "heart" inside, since macOS and iOS are based on the XNU kernel, which in turn is derived from BSD. Sony's Playstation also has a FreeBSD base, and even Windows itself, with the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), has (partially, in a way) embraced the Linux-related world, enabling easy use on all PCs.
The market pushes what is demanded, and there has never been a real demand from any "big player" for "pure" Linux/FreeBSD/etc. on desktops. The desktop market, like the mobile one, is dominated by a few big players (such as Microsoft and Apple), and the average user is not knowledgeable enough (and, in the future, will be even less so) to fully understand the advantage of using a free, expandable, non-obsolete system without planned obsolescence.
Furthermore, the adoption of Linux/FreeBSD on desktops is hindered by the lack of support from hardware and software manufacturers. Many popular applications and games are developed exclusively for Windows and macOS, making it harder for users to switch to Linux or FreeBSD. However, in recent years, the situation has improved thanks to the introduction of portable tools, which allow running Windows games on Linux, and the increasing support for open-source applications.
Even if the desktop market may never be dominated by Linux or FreeBSD, their presence in other sectors provides users with the freedom and flexibility that these operating systems promise.
In conclusion, the year of Linux/FreeBSD on desktops may never come, but their widespread presence and impact on the technological landscape are undeniable. These operating systems will continue to play a crucial role in the evolution of technology, providing innovative and flexible solutions that adapt to the ever-changing needs of users and businesses.
Written and posted by: Stefano Marinelli