What's Required for Linux to Overtake Apple Mac OS X?

As this site has noted, Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth at OSCON called for Linux distributions to leapfrog the quality of Apple's Mac OS X user experience. Here's how the Linux industry can fulfill that vision.

Shuttleworth mentioned that this innovation needs to happen within the next two years, and on both the desktop and on mobile devices. Apple has created a smooth interface, one that is similar on both the computers and on the mobile device. Of course, it helps to have a computer and operating system that is produced by the same company.

What Mr. Shuttleworth said is far more important than just a simple goal -- it's the future direction of Ubuntu and the Linux desktop. It certainly is a lofty goal, but one that I personally believe can be achieved, especially when you consider the efforts of Mozilla with Firefox.

So, what will be needed? Here are some thoughts.

A smooth interface, for one. There need to be application design guidelines, just like those on Mac OS X and Windows Vista. Creating a smooth application interface takes more than just a good looking theme. An interface must also include flow, so applications that are included should work together, and for the most part work alike.

Another goal should be standardizing the interface and applications for Linux by creating a default set of applications that become the focus of development. Apple has applications that are standards on their desktops. They all work together and work alike, and also come by default, leaving the user with little desire to use something different.

For example, KDE distributions should automatically come with Firefox in place of Konqueror. It will certainly be a challenge; many people have many different ideas about what should be done with the desktop. Look at GNOME and KDE, for example. They both have very different approaches to the desktop experience. I believe it can be achieved, but only if the designers work together and put aside their differences for a better result. GNOME and KDE will never merge, but rather it would be a step in the right direction for GNOME to innovate, and for KDE to regroup after the KDE 3 vs 4 battles that took place.

Ubuntu is ready for this challenge. The two year time frame is between the next two anticipated releases of Mac OS X. In Ubuntu-time, however, that is four releases -- four releases to innovate and create a superior desktop experience. There will even be Ubuntu-powered mobile products available by the end of this year. Ubuntu will become the new Linux standard, but there is an opportunity (and invitation from Mark Shuttleworth) for other Linux distributions to join the effort. It will interesting to see where we are in the next two years.

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