Is 2021 The Year Of The Google Linux Desktop?
Day 53 of the #100DaysToOffload Series:
Pretty much every year since I started using Linux, and I'm sure some before that, there have always been optimistic hopes that next year will be the Year of the Linux Desktop. As anybody who has seen a market share statistic in the last twenty years knows, that's never happened. Is next year the year?
In my opinion, the Linux desktop has never happened for a series of very simple reasons. It has nothing to do with Linux specifically. It has everything to do with momentum and apathy.
I don't mean apathy to sound negative in this particular instance. I just mean that most people just don't care what OS their computer is running. They've got a computer that does what they want. It came with some apps and they can type a letter, connect their printer and have it work, and browse Facebook to chat with old acquaintances from high school or college.
Linux doesn't offer them anything that would draw them away from what they've already got. True, Linux does all those things just as well as Windows or macOS for the most part, but in almost all cases, Linux isn't what the computer they bought off the shelf or ordered on the Internet comes with.
There are exceptions to this of course. macOS being one of them. All computers from Apple come with it and not Windows. Apple has been around long enough and is well known enough that they can pull off being different than the norm. It's almost impossible for another player to get in on the game though.
That's not stopping Google from trying though. Google, in true lazy fashion, has built their own OS but built it on top of Linux. Underneath those Googly graphics is a Linux kernel, and a lot of Linux tools.
ChromeOS started off as a low end computer really only fit to run the browser that was it's entire OS. As time has progressed, it's added more and more capability, and it's become quite popular in some circles. At the end of last year it's share of the desktop market was close to 7%, though it's dropped a lot since then.
The biggest argument against ChromeOS is the same one that plagues Linux in general, and that's that the most popular apps don't run on the platform. I can't tell people they should try Linux without getting at least someone saying they'd love to try it, but they need Microsoft Office. Or Photoshop. Or something like that.
Google is seeking to resolve that situation by partnering with Parallels to run Windows applications on ChromeOS. The details haven't been fully revealed on this one yet, but Parallels did say they would “seamlessly add full-featured Windows apps, including Microsoft Office, to Chromebook Enterprise devices.”
Is that going to be something that's offered to the home user too? Even if not, that's a huge temptation to corporations. ChromeOS has shown itself to be more secure to use that Windows laptops, and often come at a lower price point too.
It remains to be seen if this will move the needle when it comes to desktop market share. It will be interesting to have inexpensive Chromebooks have full compatibility with Windows applications.
If this takes off in the enterprise market, Google's OS may claim a significant portion of the desktop market, and it may drag that Linux kernel powering it along for the ride.