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Desktop Linux: You've got a long way to go, baby

The Linux desktop still has a lot of rough edges, but it just may not matter much anymore.

Despite the success of Linux, and particularly Ubuntu, in ultraportable netbooks, Ars Technica is reporting that Linux netbooks have a dramatically higher return rate than Windows-based netbooks, and for some very good reasons.

Ranging from "It's not Windows" to hardware compatibility problems, Linux netbooks are off to a rocky start. True, as Novell's Nat Friedman tells Ars Technica, it was to be expected that there would be "some hiccups on what is essentially the first large-scale consumer rollout of Linux desktops to new Linux users." That these are new Linux users is in and of itself great news.

But it's not enough. If the Linux desktop crowd wants to drive adoption, it must be equal or better to the Windows experience, the experience that most mainstream users will know. Apple has accomplished this with the Mac. It is a better, more usable operating system. Linux, so far, is not. To get there it's going to require more spit-and-polish work from companies like Novell.

We've got a long way to go to hit desktop Linux domination. That's the good news, because it means there's opportunity. The bad news, unfortunately, is that by the time Linux gets there the desktop as we know it probably won't matter much anymore.