Currently Linux Mint is exploding with new users. This indicates to me that Ubuntu is not improving anything with their current direction. Rather we're seeing a mass exodus to Mint by frustrated Ubuntu users.
Even though both Mint and Ubuntu share some similarities, their overall approaches to the Linux desktop vary greatly as the two user camps begin to split further apart. Remember, Unity is only one of the differences between Mint and Ubuntu.
Now despite the gloom of the news above, it's worth noting that there are Ubuntu users who are thrilled about Ubuntu's current direction. But for everyone else outside of this group, our wishes are a bit less gratified.
A community speaking as one
Due to the diverse nature of the Linux community, I don't see much agreement on any one person speaking for the Linux community as a whole. Despite recent efforts from Mark Shuttleworth, most non-Ubuntu users are really quite content not drinking his "Koolaid" on how Linux needs to run from his playbook.
I think that instead of looking for a Steve Jobs-like persona to fill in any perceived void in Linux leadership, instead we need to continue relying on what has worked thus far. We have some strong voices within the Linux community already, with the greatest voice of all being that of each one of us.
While it can be frustrating tryiing to get heard if we're not part of the development of a specific Linux distribution, the fact remains that we can make our voices heard clearly by choosing one Linux distribution over another. Think of it as voting based on distribution preference.
No Steve Jobs, no problem
There are a few takeaways I'd like to leave you with. The first one is that waiting for a single person to make Linux on the desktop more approachable is likely going to be a waste of time.
While efforts to make Linux on the desktop more appealing will undoubtedly continue, in the end those who want to switch will do so on their own. And those people who don't like what Linux has to offer will stick with what they're already using for their OS.
The reason Steve Jobs was able to take his enthusiasm and make it work so well was because he was working with a single vision of what he wanted with his company. By contrast, the strength powering Linux is the complete opposite: There is no single controlling group.
Instead, Linux on the desktop is "contributed to" by many different people and is not controlled by a single visionary. So what worked well for Apple would not be right for something as diverse as Linux on the desktop. And considering that the Linux desktop isn't dependent on maintaining a market share or hitting preset numbers to be considered successful, this maybe a good thing.
Maybe, just maybe, what makes the Linux desktop successful is that we don't need any one person to make us popular.