Join us on our own very special Reddit on /r/Linuxers.

Linux needs to be pre-installed on more hardware to hit mainstream

By - | Views: 16,697

There's always arguments across many angles on what exactly Linux needs to succeed to become more mainstream and the answer, as we've long said, is pretty simple.

Hardware. Pre-installed. That's it.

Honestly, it really is that simple. There's a fair bit of that now already with the likes of System76, Slimbook, TUXEDO , Star Labs and others I'm forgetting. However, none of those are particularly known outside of Linux circles (TUXEDO claim otherwise). Even if they're slowly pulling in newer non-Linuxy customers, they're still tiny and often expensive. Other vendors like Dell and Lenovo may have a few but they're often harder to find. It's a bit like the old Linux gaming loop — people don't want to switch due to "no games" and developers don't want to support directly due to "no users". Vendors don't often do it because they don't perceive there to be enough interest.

Writing in a fresh blog post titled "What desktop Linux needs to succeed in the mainstream", KDE developer Nate Graham agrees and I couldn't have put it better if I tried:

People get hung up a lot on features and usability, and these are important. But they’re means to an end and not good enough ends by themselves. Quality means nothing if people can’t get it. And people can’t get it without accessible distribution. High quality Linux distros aren’t enough; they need to be pre-installed on hardware products you can buy in mainstream retail stores! “The mainstream” buys products they can touch and hold; if you can’t find it in a mainstream store, it doesn’t exist.

Creating good distributions and good applications with good gaming support is only one small piece of the puzzle. We're not just talking about people going into stores to look at laptops and desktops to try them out though. The bigger known online stores and vendors, we need them to start stocking and properly advertising Linux systems too. Not just that though, the systems need to look good and work well for the vendors themselves, to also be interested in stocking them.

Graham believes that KDE continues to be in a good position to serve their needs too, noting the belief that hardware vendors look for these points:

  • Flexibility. Your software has to be easily adaptable to whatever kind of device they have without tons of custom engineering they’ll be on the hook for supporting over the product’s lifecycle.
  • Features that make their devices look good. Support for its physical hardware characteristics, good performance, a pleasant-looking user interface… reasons for people to buy it, basically.
  • Stability. Can’t crash and dump users at a command line terminal prompt. Has to actually work. Can’t feel like a hobbyist science fair project.
  • Usability that’s to be good enough to minimize support costs. When something goes wrong, “the mainstream” contacts their hardware vendor. Usability needs to be good enough so that this happens as infrequently as possible.

For KDE specifically all this is slowly coming together with more products going for KDE and Plasma like Valve with the Steam Deck, Pine with the PinePhone / PineBook Pro, the KDE Slimbook and the Kubuntu Focus. The point remains though - bigger mainstream vendors are essential.

The biggest push may indeed come from the Steam Deck. A PC in a handheld form factor, that allows you to hook it up to a monitor for a full KDE Plasma desktop experience. Very exciting. If we see a lot of people enjoy it and the Steam Deck is a success, you can be almost guaranteed that more devices will come along and slap SteamOS 3 on it and then also have a KDE Plasma desktop available. The knock-on effect could be seen elsewhere, with more people wanting to use KDE Plasma and then hopefully more vendors and we may even see a loop there with it finally being picked up more often.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
20 Likes
We do often include affiliate links to earn us some pennies. We are currently affiliated with GOG and Humble Store. See more here.
About the author -
author picture
I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
See more from me
38 comments
Page: «2/4»
  Go to:

CSharp 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: Liam DaweThere is no alternative. You cannot keep appealing to the same set of users, that isn't big enough to grow and attract more vendors.

We have yet to satisfy our own demographic. There's a huge amount of churn on Linux, users that are curious, try it and don't stick. And yet we're slowly getting there.

* The steam survey says we're slowly becoming more.
* Some vendors are starting to pop up.

My point is that the vendors we have produce hardware that we do not want, and that computer enthusiasts as a whole are not excited about. Their only selling point is that they run Linux. Which is not a strong selling point to the mainstream.

There's no way in hell a Pinephone would outsell the iPhone at a regular retailer, even considering you can buy half a dozen Pinephones for the price of an iPhone. The moment that people realize that it lags when scrolling and has a hard time playing a Youtube video, they're out.

You don't see tech channels getting excited about the rebadged Chinese laptops that the Linux vendors come up with, and you see very lukewarm reviews for any Linux based handset. The Linux hardware market is just boring, and you're usually better off buying the Windows device and replacing the OS.

I get your point that the Hardware not being in their faces doesn't expose them to it. But I'd argue the Steam Deck and the Raspberry are the only competitive products we got in the ring (hardware-wise). And I can buy Raspberries at normal electronics stores and the Deck has huge hype behind it.
kerossin 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: tooras soon as you have a problem, you are on your own

What?

I don't know how it is with MacOS but troubleshooting Linux is certainly better than Windows. With Windows you get an error code that looks like a phone number that neither you nor Microsoft knows what it means, you got to an MS forum and someone will throw down the same classic list of: 1) make sure you're connected to the internet 2) try turning off the firewall 3) run sfc in cmd. How is that user friendly at all?

Also, try running as administrator because why not.

Linux distros usually have bug trackers, mailing list, GitHub Issues where actual devs can answer. And with Linux if you're willing you can actually dig down and find out what's the problem, even contribute to fixing it.
gbudny 14 Dec, 2021
All users visiting this website can install AROS or Haiku OS on their computers, and companies don't even notice or care about it.

They will see how much money they get for applications for Linux and Mac. In this case, they will know which operating system should support. Users of an operating system that doesn't generate enough money get an incredibly beautiful message about discontinuing support for their platform.

QuoteLinux distros usually have bug trackers, mailing list, GitHub Issues where actual devs can answer. And with Linux if you're willing you can actually dig down and find out what's the problem, even contribute to fixing it.


Github? Bug trackers? What are you talking about?

That is the answer that I get from people that aren't computer enthusiasts.


Last edited by gbudny on 14 December 2021 at 1:41 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: CSharpThere's no way in hell a Pinephone would outsell the iPhone at a regular retailer, even considering you can buy half a dozen Pinephones for the price of an iPhone. The moment that people realize that it lags when scrolling and has a hard time playing a Youtube video, they're out.
Pinephone is ridiculously far from being a mainstream device. Their target market is pretty clear: Linux users and FOSS fans. Comparing them to an iphone is a bit ridiculous.

Quoting: CSharpI get your point that the Hardware not being in their faces doesn't expose them to it. But I'd argue the Steam Deck and the Raspberry are the only competitive products we got in the ring (hardware-wise). And I can buy Raspberries at normal electronics stores and the Deck has huge hype behind it.
Both of those help to prove my point. Raspberry Pi is well-known and the official OS is Linux. Steam Deck is already well known, will likely sell well and runs Linux.

As for previous points:
Quoting: CSharpGoogle has successfully mainstreamed Linux twice. Because they know that what the Linux desktop user wants is not what the average user wants.
Because they're:

A) Google, well known.
B) Sold everywhere.

Literally everything goes back to the same thing: bigger names putting them in front of people, the point of the article.
pleasereadthemanual 14 Dec, 2021
View PC info
  • Supporter
Quoting: Liam Dawe
Quoting: CSharpI have to disagree with the sentiment though. I think the bigger issue Linux has is that it tries to cater to the mainstream too much. Most people I talk with would not buy a laptop with Linux even if I glued it to their faces.
There is no alternative. You cannot keep appealing to the same set of users, that isn't big enough to grow and attract more vendors.

In my opinion, the problem isn't that GNU/Linux distributions try to cater to mainstream users; the problem is that they're bad at it. By which I mean there are simply too many things that are janky or outright worse than on mainstream desktop operating systems; OBS, Anki, Audacity, all open source applications, are a categorically worse experience on GNU/Linux. And those are the open source ones!

Another user brought up Revolution OS (great documentary, by the way), where Linus says that users use programs, not operating systems. And this is completely true. For the mainstream user, if they can't use Microsoft Office on GNU/Linux, it's game over. Libreoffice simply cannot guarantee .docx compatibility because, even if it's an open standard, it's quite complex and it's still a moving target. Maybe other office suites are better. Is that user going to try 5 of them until they find something that works well enough?

Adobe Creative Suite is not available on GNU/Linux. No other application can guarantee .PSD/.AEP/.INDD compatibility, even if there are better alternatives, like Affinity Creative Suite (which also isn't on GNU/Linux). The problem, of course, is a reliance on an application-specific format (a moving target, never intended to be exchanged, quite complex) just like Microsoft Office instead of an exchange format like Open Raster.

And these are the popular applications—people I know are entrenched in much less popular Windows-only applications that would also make a different OS a deal-breaker.

Honestly, I see a darker future than that. Here are the headlines from 2035's newspapers (most countries have stopped publishing newspapers in print by this point and you can only get them online, and you still can't cancel without ringing up and being put on hold for 2 hours):

QuoteMicrosoft makes brave new move. Takes a page from Google and starts selling Microbooks.

These laptops run on a locked down version of Fuchsia, and after the customer pays with Google Pay, Apple Pay, or Microsoft Pay, they can gain access to Windows 365 and run a computer in the cloud! Great option for those on a budget. Microsoft also offers the same experience with Soft Desk, a tower PC option. ASUS, Acer, and other manufacturers have come out with similar CAAS (Computing-as-a-Service) hardware clients with their own branding.

Traditional computing systems are falling out of favor and are left to the hobbyist market to assemble themselves. To install Windows, Microsoft requires a security peripheral be installed and present at all times to guarantee a genuine experience.

Personally, and I try to be optimistic, I think the core problem isn't the applications, although that is a part of it. People can get over that. They do with macOS software. The real problem is a lack of interoperability between applications in the same field. The film industry has this with .AAF exchange format files, though not working in that field, I couldn't tell you how well it works. If there were a reliable, open exchange format for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe inDesign, and Adobe After Effects, I would have absolutely no reason not to use 100% free software for my personal life and work. It would certainly allow for a more even playing field for underdogs like Affinity Serif.

As it stands, After Effects only supports AAF import on Windows, and recently removed the ability to import AAF from macOS versions.

Chromebooks have won the battle for some users by taking all these workflows to the web, where Linux shines, but there are some workflows that will never be able to be taken to the web...at least not for a long time. I mean, I guess there is Photopea...

I think the battle is in quality exchange formats that every application is pressured to support, not in porting over proprietary applications to GNU/Linux.

Of course, for those niche Windows-only workflows and software, some people will still have to have it around. But that's a far better position to be in; it's the one macOS is in now (minus hobbyist gaming; they're doing pretty well with mobile gaming).

I don't mean to be harsh; just realistic.
gbudny 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: Liam DaweBoth of those help to prove my point. Raspberry Pi is well-known and the official OS is Linux. Steam Deck is already well known, will likely sell well and runs Linux.

Raspberry Pi is a computer for people that treat it as a toy. I don't even think about commercial games because we know that Runesoft was almost completely ignored by them.

https://forums.raspberrypi.com/viewtopic.php?t=23253

I don't even see too many posts on their forums about Conquest of Elysium 4.
CSharp 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: Liam DawePinephone is ridiculously far from being a mainstream device. Their target market is pretty clear: Linux users and FOSS fans. Comparing them to an iphone is a bit ridiculous.

And not even FOSS enthusiasts are raving about it. Yes, they're selling, but they're not turning heads.

Quoting: Liam DaweLiterally everything goes back to the same thing: bigger names putting them in front of people, the point of the article.

No, Google knew what they wanted to offer. Chrome OS doesn't do anything new, they just pulled an Apple and packaged it nicely so the consumer would like it. The consumer for Chrome OS is not a computer enthusiast, the mainstream consumer isn't, they just want a browser and an OS that doesn't get in their way when they're browsing Facebook.

People don't buy Chromebooks because of the brand recognition, Google advertises the fact that they boot fast, have a long battery life and have an immutable root filesystem. I don't think any Linux enthusiast would be thrilled about the latter.

Quoting: Liam DaweBoth of those help to prove my point. Raspberry Pi is well-known and the official OS is Linux. Steam Deck is already well known, will likely sell well and runs Linux.

The Raspberry Pi was not a big name, it was something that people wanted. It's small, cheap and versatile, which is exactly what they need to be for their application. They're a great way to automate stuff or even play retro games, but it's not a good desktop platform and it hasn't replaced basic Windows machines there either. I would consider the Pi to be a smash success for Linux, without having ever really catered to the mainstream.

If somebody wants to use a Pi to automate something, they have to learn Linux and get acquainted with the Philosophy. The Pi is not trying to be something it isn't. It's a tinkering device and it doesn't try to be anything but that.
Liam Dawe 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: CSharpAnd not even FOSS enthusiasts are raving about it. Yes, they're selling, but they're not turning heads.
Don't know why you keep on at this. Like I said, it's nothing to do with mainstream and it's not their target. You are, however, proving my point. Simply targeting the existing market isn't enough.

Quoting: CSharpNo, Google knew what they wanted to offer...*snip*
If you think downplaying that Google, one of the biggest companies on the planet isn't responsible for selling products based on the fact that they're one of the biggest you're mad. Names sell, it's true of everything.

I'm also not arguing for plain Linux. Look at System76 as an example, they're heavily investing into Pop to make it appeal to more people, and it's clearly working for them. They're constantly growing and expanding, because they're not just trying to pull in Linux fans.
Quoting: CSharpPeople don't buy Chromebooks because of the brand recognition, Google advertises the fact that they boot fast, have a long battery life and have an immutable root filesystem. I don't think any Linux enthusiast would be thrilled about the latter.
Again, you're just helping my point here. They're not targetting plain Linux users. You said this that Linux "tries to cater to the mainstream too much", I say very clearly: not enough, not even close...yet. Work is being done towards it but it's not enough.
Quoting: CSharpThe Raspberry Pi was not a big name
No, but again, they appealed to a much more mainstream audience and not normal Linux users.

Honestly, I'm just repeating myself. Bigger names doing Linux and appealing to the mainstream. It's not enough to make Plasma or GNOME good, there needs to be the devices out there for people to buy easily and recognisable. I won't personally debate it any further, as I will just end up repeating myself again and again ;)
win8linux 14 Dec, 2021
Quoting: pleasereadthemanualAdobe Creative Suite is not available on GNU/Linux.

FWIW Adobe is starting to explore having their Creative Cloud suite on the web, including barebones variants of Photoshop and Illustrator. It is quite likely that over time, these will become more fully fledged options and the rest of CC will follow. As much as I'm not a fan of everything moving over to the cloud, the trend will make Linux a more viable option in the mainstream.
pleasereadthemanual 14 Dec, 2021
View PC info
  • Supporter
Quoting: win8linux
Quoting: pleasereadthemanualAdobe Creative Suite is not available on GNU/Linux.

FWIW Adobe is starting to explore having their Creative Cloud suite on the web, including barebones variants of Photoshop and Illustrator. It is quite likely that over time, these will become more fully fledged options and the rest of CC will follow. As much as I'm not a fan of everything moving over to the cloud, the trend will make Linux a more viable option in the mainstream.
After Effects is painful enough on fairly beefy native hardware, without a monstrosity that Parabola keeps out of their repositories because it was too large and complex to verify it was fully free software (Chromium) between it. Premiere Pro, for similar reasons, I don't see happening for a long, long time. Photoshop and Illustrator, I can see.

inDesign...the web is going to need a lot more optimization before I can start laying out books in a webapp.

Photoshop is in the best state of all of the Adobe applications, really. You've got web-based solutions like Photopea already, and Affinity Photo has great support for .PSD (except for editable text, which may or may not be a deal-breaker).

But, if they somehow manage to work it out, that would certainly be great for me. Especially if I don't have to have so many Adobe background processes...
While you're here, please consider supporting GamingOnLinux on:

Reward Tiers: Patreon. Plain Donations: Liberapay or PayPal.

This ensures all of our main content remains totally free for everyone with no article paywalls. We also don't have tons of adverts, there's also no tracking and we respect your privacy. Just good, fresh content. Without your continued support, we simply could not continue!

You can find even more ways to support us on this dedicated page any time. If you already are, thank you!
Login / Register

Or login with...
Sign in with Steam Sign in with Twitter Sign in with Google
Social logins require cookies to stay logged in.