This would be, and is, tough. Not as a programming effort, but as a real-world logistics effort. Youd have to get hardware makers and application developers on board, and not in a token after-the-fact way. Youd have to forestall criticism from those who regard with suspicion any attempts to turn Linux or its derivatives into a commercial project. And youd have to find out a way to fund the whole thingsomething that most likely cant be done on the relatively modest revenue generated by simply selling support, Red Hat- / Canonical-style.
Given that Windows and Mac have already done that heavy lifting and created ecosystems that provide 99% of the user populace what they need and are willing to pay for, its not surprising nothing like this has happened. The effort required is massive; the payoff dim and distant. Better instead to concentrate on markets where the results can be seen far more immediately.
Android was as close to that sort of project as we ever got, and it took the muscle and clout of Google to make it happen. Whats more, it didnt happen on the PC it happened in the exploding smartphone space, where the economics of phones made Android a worthy bet.
The results speak for themselves: Droid phones are legion. And thats despite the frustrating inconsistencies between different handset makers and carriers, and the rather patchwork-quilt nature of the application ecosystem.
Androids been edging that much closer to being the desktop that Linux simply cant be, especially with the recent spate of Android-powered tablets hitting the market. But its intended more as competition for iOS, not the desktop proper, and Droids evolution is going to continue to be rocky for a good while to come.
Ive seen a few other attempts to take a stab at creating a new end-user software ecosystem, but theyve been stuck in the early stages for years. Haiku OS, for instance, which was born from the ashes of BeOS. Technologically, its intriguingbut its still a long way off from being anything more than a nice idea.
And the beat goes on
None of this has stopped Canonical and Fedora and the rest of the distro-rollers from doing their thing. They seem to remain firmly convinced that its just a matter of finding some combination of a couple of magical elements. And so each successive iteration of Ubuntu has interface tweaks and usability variations, but no substantial attempt to use Linux as a base to build a properly cohesive ecosystem.
Its reminiscent of a car company changing styles of paint or dashboard controls but ignoring whats under the hood, while the rest of the competition is rolling out hybrids and electrics.
Some people have said to me, why give them grief for giving a small but select group of people what they want? Well, no, I dont mean to begrudge the folks who have made Linux their desktop system of choice. God love em; theyve got far more chutzpah than I.
But they need to remember theyre the exception. The fact that most people have no desire to dump Windows (or OS X) and install Linux, or root their phone, is not a sign of the decadence of the masses. Its a sign that they have different priorities. I have never seen a single successful attempt to convince a non-technical user that its in his best interest to be a hacker.
I have seen plenty of successful attempts to convince engineers and programmers that its in their best interest to understand what ordinary people want and need, and to give it to them in a way that they can further build on.
The evidence of that is all around us.
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