Every time there's a new, expensive version of Windows released, I get more people asking about Linux.
I'm sure you do... but your circle of friends and contacts is not representative of the general public.
How do I know that? Because the desktop usage of Linux hasn't budged in a decade.
And for what it is worth, Windows is just as free, from the point of view of the average consumer. Most people get Windows with their computer and few upgrade, which is one of the reasons MS went ahead and started giving Windows away. They want to be paid when the computer is sold, but for most people, it will now be a free upgrade. You just pay again when you buy your next computer.
Linux lacks a single release, it is confusing, there are many versions, there is no one company for support, some things work better on one release or another, etc.
To the average consumer, it is just a big mess. Windows 7 is Windows 7 is Windows 7. Linux doesn't offer that.
Look, I don't want to get into a fanboy argument, rest assured MS has done some really dumb things over the years, I'll be the first to point out that Vista was a mess at launch, they overreached and backed off to that. 8 had its own problems, partly fixed with 8.1, completely (more or less) fixed with 10.
Balmer is gone, real change is happening, these are good things. Did Linux cause them? Meh, I suspect Apple is a bigger concern for MS, but they aren't fools, they don't want anything getting in the way of Windows being on the vast majority of computers.
To put this another way... Linux can't win by "not being Windows". It has to offer something compelling that Windows does not. To most consumers, it does not offer anything compelling and it in fact has tons of draw backs. You don't mind, you can work past them, but most people don't WANT to do that.