Linux Needs A Committed Champion

Jan 27, 2004 (11:01 AM EST)

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Nuts to Linus Torvalds.

On January 19, Bruce Perens, executive director of the Linux Desktop Consortium extolled the virtues of the latest round of Linux desktops for businesses being shown at the recent LinuxWorld Expo.

Only one business day earlier, while attending in Australia, Linux Torvalds was quoted by Australian IT as saying that it will take five to 10 years before "normal users" start seeing Linux desktop.

Torvalds is a sharp man, someone who is easy to admire in the world of technology. But occasionally I find his seeming disassociation with the business world a little off-putting. And this is one of those times. Because if desktop Linux takes five to 10 years to make its presence known among the computing masses, it may never appear.

Linus Torvalds is selling the little OS he's helped to build short. He may be doing that because he's not usually given to chest thumping and brash pronouncements. But at the very least, someone should say confidently that desktop Linux adoption will be growing at a noticeable clip by the end of this decade.

Linux needs a spiritual leader who can promote it. In some ways, that flies in the face of the open-source process. But this isn't about process. It's about perception. It's about vision. It's about making this OS work for the people who haven't adopted it yet. And most of those people like warm, touchy-feely, consumer-like OS control surfaces. The kind Linux doesn't have much of. The kind that companies like Lindows, Xandros, Mandrake, and one or two others are attempting to build.

Linux needs support from within to take it beyond the gee-whiz phase. And that's going to involve commitment, not hesitation. It's going to require a champion.