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Journal fishdan's Journal: Is the home desktop going away? 2

The below is my response to


Hey Barney,

I use all 3 major operating systems. XP (3.0ghz w/HT, 1g ram, etc...) at home for gaming, OS X on a 12" (all I've ever needed) PowerBook during my 35 min train ride to/from work, and FC 3(RedHat) with KDE (just switched from Gnome this week) at work(2.8ghz, 1g RAM etc). My firewall machine is an old 233 running RedHat 9 w/128m RAM, My mythtv box is FC4, My wife's machine is XP. My webserver (http://www.sportsdot.org) is FC2.

Firstly, Linux and Mac aren't trying because your magazine doesn't have the right audience, and I don't mean this in an insulting way. I think that most of the people who read your magazine (self described as "The independent voice of the Microsoft IT community") are in the "Cult of Microsoft." There are also cults of Apple and Linux for sure. And all of those people are difficult to reach with rational argument, and usually unwilling to spend a month using another OS to really appreciate it. There's no doubt that very few hardcore Linux users are aware of how stable XP really is and how good terminal services is now. I would say equally few Windows users understand how much their experience can be changed by changing/configuring window managers, or how good Mplayer or OpenOffice really is. And Macnatics won't even be in a room with either OS.

IMHO the home desktop is in it's last hurrah. Gaming is going away from the desktop, consoles look to be on the verge of dominating that space. Who's going to win that space is a completely different discussion, but props to MSFT on the 360. Email is moving to more portable devices. Web Browsing...well, I still do a lot of it from my home desktop, but now I do about 15% from my myth box in my home theater -- up 15% from last year. And quite frankly, you don't need much of an OS (or computer) to browse the web. Microsoft's big push to the MediaCenter PC is their realization of the demise of the home desktop. I think for the home the future is interactive embedded devices, all connected wirelessly. And you'll finally see Bill Joy's statement of "The Network is the Computer" realized, as with the advent of AJAX, rich applications move to the web. In 5 years I'm pretty sure that "Quicken Online" (or something like it) will be 10x more popular than Quicken on the desktop. Sites like http://www.writely.com have such a huge advantage over Word, that I wonder what tasks are left for the home desktop.

I recognize my home network/home theater set up is much more complicated than what most people have, and I am much more sophisticated than most users, but EVERYONE who has been in my house has asked me if they could set up something like that up. My response is "Would you consider putting a hardwood floor in yourself? If you would, I think that for a similar level of work, investment in learning how to do it and $$$, you can have a home network and a home media center (lowercase). Don't think that it's easy as pie, but anyone who wants to can do it. And it become simpler every week. I recently helped a friend install knoppmyth...turns out, even though he had used Linux before, he did not need my help, except for me bringing over the CD -- he was recording TV in 2 hours. In fact he just sent me a 30 second clip from the Daily Show. For full disclosure, I have to mention he did his digital editing on his windows desktop.

That's the market Linux is exceptionally competetive in -- the computer that the average person doesn't even know is a computer. On a device that sells for less than $200, having the OS be free is a huge boon to the manufacturer -- even if the MS license were only $5/unit (and I have no idea how much it actually is) that's over 5% profit loss, which can crush a business in volume. I guarantee you everyone in the U.S. has used a Linux powered computer and been completely unaware of it, whether as a touch screen somewhere, or in a high end cash register, or in a small router in their house.

As for the desktop -- you said "...none of the companies selling (or giving away) this stuff really seem to care about desktops and laptops..." I'm assuming you're baseing this statement on the fact that they are not overly interested in interviewing with you or in traditional PR or advertizing, but neither Linux nor Mac advertize in that way. They both work on the principle -- "if you build it, they will come". Linux companies and Apple are focused on exactly that -- building a better mousetrap -- or in their case, the best operating system they can. The operating systems advertize themselves (although Mac also gets alot of advertizing from the Ipod too). If you look at the number of institutions (schools, municipal and state governments, etc) that have committed to open source, it does seem that people are becoming more aware of other options.

I don't think the Linux and Mac people are not trying to compete in the desktop space-- I think there method of competing is not through advertizing, but through constantly improving. I can tell you as someone who uses all 3 every day -- each has it's place. I would never try to play games on Linux box (though I've done it once or twice) -- the Windows experience is vastly superior. I would never try to write/debug intensive code on my windows box (though I've done it once or twice), the Linux experience is vastly superior. And I'd never try to travel with a laptop that wasn't OS X. The Powerbooks are so fantastic, I'm not likely to ever go back to anything else.

Sorry for the long letter -- hope there's some opinions in there you'll find worthwhile.


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Is the home desktop going away?

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  • Nice post, Looks indeed so that gaming turning to consoles more lately. Probably because console games are easier to develop -every console of the same type is the same (same graphics card and such). And maybe also easier to market, harder to copy illegally. (everr so slightly) And maybe some less benign reasons in microsofts case. I dont really get why consoles arent marketed as really-game-oriented pc's. I just hope that these console games will get ported to the pc later. Seems like a shame to me if in
    • yeah, I don't get either how you'll be able to play fps at a high level without a mouse either. And I can not at all imagine playing RTS like starcraft on a console.

Truth has always been found to promote the best interests of mankind... - Percy Bysshe Shelley