Growing Linux Desktop

Maddog considers the history of chess as a metaphor to grow the desktop Linux user base.

There is a story about the game of chess and how it was invented centuries ago. After the game was invented, the ruler of the country was so happy that he offered the inventor a reward for their efforts. The inventor requested a grain of rice on the first square, two grains on the second square, four grains on the third square, and so forth. The ruler, speaking quickly, said “Let it be done.” The problem was that there was not enough grain in the entire kingdom.

Today we might think of this as “two to the 64th power,” a number so large that it is fairly unimaginable. Even two to the 32nd is over four billion, and, if you start with a number greater than two, it gets very large very fast. It is this concept that I was thinking about when I asked Linus Torvalds to port Linux from the 32-bit Intel platform to the 64-bit DEC Alpha.

Today, I would like to apply this concept to a different subject, that of desktop Linux, one of the few places where Linux does not have the penetration that it should have. Few people would say that Linux does not have penetration in the high performance computing market, the server marketplace, the embedded system space, and the cell phone space (as Android), but we have been stymied in the desktop space to the point where “The Year of Desktop Linux” has been a running joke for at least two decades.


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