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Linux’s biggest problem is it looks like Windows

December 17, 2009

At this time of year there are a lot of ‘reviews of 2009’ articles and the Linux ones always discuss Linux on the desktop and where it is at.  In short it’s not there yet, but…

To me the biggest problem Linux has on the desktop is not compatibility, it’s not applications, and it’s not even mindset.  It’s that it looks too much like Windows.

A lot of people I mention this to think I’m mad but read on and I’ll explain.

With Windows owning the desktop most people considering Linux will only have experienced the Windows world.  So they have built in beliefs and expectations about how their desktop should work.

Where the icons should be, how menus should work.  The steps they need to go through to get things done.

When they try Linux most of these expectations are nearly right.  Icons work the same, menus work the same, usually the steps needed to do something are the same, but it just feels different.  There are no drive letter, the buttons have different names (discard instead of cancel).  Because it is nearly the same it jars in the brain.

It’s like when you buy a new car and the indicator and light switches are in different places, the layout of the stereo is different.  You end up cursing the differences and want it to be the same as before because that just worked.  The big difference with a car is you’re not going to give it back so you work your way through learning the new way and then it is second nature and the next car you buy has the same effect.

Another example closer to home for what I mean is smartphones.

Many have QWERTY keyboards and even touchscreen for navigation.  Similar to a desktop, but because the user interface is so different we just expect to learn a new way of working and get on with it.

I would love to see a Linux desktop and application suite that does it all in a new way.  No earlier expectations would be valid so the user would just have to get on with it.

Maybe Android on netbooks will do this.  We’ll have to see.

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