2008 is drawing to a close. Now is the time to reflect on the past year. I started using Linux a decade ago. During my undergrad I installed Linux for people, espousing it’s benefits, with a fervor that Richard Stallman would have been proud of. The years after that were a dissapointment for me, as Linux on the desktop was oft predicted and always projected for next year. Fast forward almost ten years to the day after my first Linux experiences when, in October of 2007, I picked up the first of what would become the netbook: An Asus EeePC 701.
The EeePC was cheap, silent, sturdy, light, and ran Xandros Linux with a custom IceWM UI. The EeePC ushered in the Netbook. Since then we have seen the HP Mini-Note 2133, the MSI Wind, Acer Aspire One, and the Dell Mini 9, as well as similar offerings from Everex, Packard Bell, Toshiba, Lenovo, and doubtless others.
The EeePC began life as a Linux-only device. The Aspire One ships with a modified Fedora install, the 2133 with SLED and the HP Mini 1000 and Dell Mini 9 with versions of Ubuntu. All of the netbooks run Linux well. Netbooks in general and Linux on netbooks in particular forced Microsoft to change their plans and continue to sell Windows XP. Linux on netbooks were and continue to be a credible threat to MS’s OS monopoly.
At work, six years ago Solaris machines were being replaced with Windows machines. Six years later, a good percentage of the machines are dual-boot, many run only Ubuntu Linux. I routinely see Linux laptops in the department, I’d say as almost as many Linux laptops as Vista laptops and certainly more Linux desktops than Vista desktops.
It seems that Microsoft’s stranglehold on the market is finally drawing to a close. While I’m certain that Linux will never see a 90+% of the desktop market, I am equally certain that no other OS will ever see that kind of market share again. In fact, as netbooks have shown, the entire concept of “desktop market share” is passé.
Linux certainly has arrived. In routers, cell phones, mobile internet devices, netbooks, laptops, desktops, servers, clouds, and other markets not yet imagined, Linux is alive and well and is spurring a new way of thinking that reaches far beyond the operating system. 2008 saw the Linux desktop, in the form of the netbook, take it’s first significant chunk of market share. As someone who’s been waiting for this for a decade now, it’s about time.