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Games as an alternative Linux desktop strategy

Gaming could be the way that Linux finally establishes itself on the desktop.

Bless Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols for his optimism. Writing for Computerworld, Vaughan-Nichols suggests that we don't need to wait for the Year of the Linux Desktop, because we've already had it. Somehow, I missed that. Vaughan-Nichols points to HP shipping Linux, Dell shipping Linux, etc., but come on: a trickle of retail activity does not a "Year of the Linux Desktop" make.

Actually, as I've written several times before, we don't need a "Year of the Linux Desktop," largely because the applications that run on my Mac (and on your Windows PC) already are Linux. Google, Amazon, and a huge swath of the Web are written on to run remotely on Linux, then delivered to your Mac/Windows/Linux PC. This fetish with Linux desktops is outdated.

However, if you must persist in that fetish, I'd recommend Andrew Min's approach: gaming. As Apple demonstrated on the desktop, the way to beat Microsoft is not at its own game, but by changing the nature and, hence, the rules of the game. Min suggests that Linux gaming may be the key to beating Windows-plus-Office, in part because the demographics of gamers mesh well with the demographics of Linux users

Gamers are adventurous folks. That right there is a positive sign. Linux adopters often need to be adventurous in order to even install a new operating system. But even better, gamers often build their own computers, either from scratch, a barebones kit, or a stripped down retail box. And as I pointed out above, what is often in the top 3 most expensive items on many gaming computers is the Windows Vista retail CD, ranging from the $214 Home Premium to the $249 Ultimate Edition. Gamers, therefore, are a ripe target for the open source community.

He has a point. Perhaps the place to start, however, is with a Linux-based gaming system, one that also allows its games to be run on Linux desktops? This would let gamers start out on a dedicated gaming device, then migrate their gaming into their work machine.

I still think it's a Quixotic endeavor, this Linux desktop. But to the extent that people want it, a gaming strategy makes as much sense as any, if not more sense.