Does the Linux Desktop Innovate Too Much?: Page 2

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I am not talking so much about specific features, such as the social desktop's ability to find nearby KDE users or those with the same hardware to help you troubleshoot (an idea that seems possibly useful when few users have KDE installed, but could easily become nightmarish when KDE becomes one of the main desktops in computing). Rather, I am referring to more general problems.

What innovators and early adopters can easily forget is that they are a minority. Where they are excited by change, most users are uncomfortable with change. Many will reject any change out of hand, no matter how logical or convenient, simply because it is new.

That is why, whenever I help someone explore GNU/Linux or OpenOffice.org, I suggest that they try it for at least a week before making reaching any conclusions. Otherwise, they will not be reacting to any advantage or disadvantage. They will be reacting to the fact that the software is unfamiliar, and this reaction is likely to blot out any logical analysis.

But, even if users get past their initial discomfort, that does not mean they will eagerly accept changes. Users have a long history of accepting what is good enough, and, whether you are talking about GNOME, KDE, Xfce, or any of half a dozen alternatives, the free desktop reached that stage several years ago.

Would social networking, for example, be more convenient if taken out of the browser, as Seigo suggests?

Possibly, but users are accustomed to it being there. From the conservative perspective of the average user, you might even argue that keeping it in the browser makes sense, since social networking tools all involve connecting to the web. Depending on how your mind works, it might make more sense to have a single point of access for all web activities, rather than having to hunt for them in different applications around the desktop.

But what the innovators are forgetting is that, for the average user, the desktop is not the destination. Nor is the destination even the application.

Rather, the destination is the user's purpose: finishing the quarterly report or IMing a girlfriend. As they focus on the task at hand, users may not want to linger on the desktop to play with its features. They may not even want a button that provides a useful social link within the application.

Instead, where Seigo writes, "I want the network to make my computing life more interesting, more immersive and more useful," users may want nothing more than to get their existing work done. Whether the desktop is the best it could be, or the workflow is logical, matters far less than whether the interface is familiar and they can do their work with a minimum of inefficiency or distraction.

In other words, there may be a very good reason why computer applications have not moved much beyond what people used to do on paper. A strong possibility exists that users neither need or want anything more -- and that they already have it.

Next Page: Time for a reality check

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Tags: social networking, Ubuntu, Linux desktop, Gnome, KDE

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