Mark Shuttleworth, founder and financial backer of Ubuntu, urges the Linux Community to "build a better desktop than Apple." Shuttleworth made this statement this week at OSCON (O'Reilly's Open Source Convention). He added that interoperability with Windows is of very high importance.
Sounds easy enough. Let me get right on that.
Shuttleworth is actually correct. We should focus on a better Linux desktop--better than Apple's Mac OS X--better than Windows--and better than current Linux offerings. If you're not a billionaire like Mark Shuttleworth, how do you go about building a better desktop and then offer it for free?
I'm all for free software. I love free software but someone, somewhere has to pay for all this free software--in time, in salaries, in legal fees, in marketing, in hosting, and in maintenance. I think Mark Shuttleworth should pay for it--seriously. He has the money. It's his idea. Let him shell out the bucks for it.
I'm not being nasty here; I'm being realistic.
The question is: Can a great desktop operating system that people will embrace and use be built and offered for free? The answer, sadly, is no. To create a better anything requires talent. Recruiting and maintaining that talent requires money. So, yes, let's build a better desktop than Apple. Let's build a better desktop than Microsoft. Let them use volunteer labor for 5 years and we'll hire great developers to create the ultimate desktop operating system.
Microsoft and Apple have had years to create, market, and perfect a desktop OS and they did it by investing a great deal of money, time, people, and grey matter to the cause. Right now, there is no company with a Linux desktop as its singular focus. A few have tried, met with varying degrees of failure, and perished in the wake of litigation and disinterest.
Like any good large company manager, I shall delegate 100% of the responsibility of carrying out the deed to the person who thought of it: Mark Shuttleworth, build us a better Linux desktop.