Let me start by telling that I truly endorse Linux. My private server runs Linux, my kids made their first steps on the internet on a Linux PC. Even my mother in law got a PC with openSUSE when she asked if I had a PC for here. Really, I think Linux is great, but with some comments.
Linux is a great product, but what is Linux? Everybody is talking about it, if it is something you can hold and can use strait out of the box, but is that so? Unfortunately not. Linux is like a V8 engine sitting on your kitchen table. It might crash through it, but that is about all you can expect it to do. Only if you include the rest of the car or at least add gasoline and a battery to start, will it do something. That is just the same with Linux. Around this ‘kernel’ extra’s have to be added to put it to good use. And to be able to control your graphical environment by using your fingers or an old school mouse, a lot has to be added.
A complete working desktop turns out to be quite a challenge. What do you make standard? All you can find; or just the bare necessities. And besides that, all that you put`, on has to be integrated with one another; provide high performance and all this without causing the end-user any trouble. The graphical user interface is of course, the most important part. It is costing Apple and Microsoft millions or even billons to create something that the average user can use intuitively.
But if the open source world can produce such an extraordinary ‘V8 engine’ in the shape of Linux, why are they not making a superb desktop? I think they can’t. And this is why: The end user is not centric. The thought behind Linux is simple, it enables software to run and provides the communication with all attached hardware like network and disks. Many techies love this. To accomplice the task of developing, Linux is strictly lead by one man: Linux Torvals. Okay he does not write all the code, but when push comes to shove, he determines what goes in and what not.
To have a visual attractive and easy understandable desktop, for all people, not just ‘nerds’, is another ballgame. Dozens of application have to work together in a integrated manner, providing a seamless experience to the end user. Of course distributions exist that have a graphical user interface (GUI). But the primary focus of these distributions, like Red Hat and SUSE is the running of, as SUSE puts it: 'mission-critical computing'. The only big distribution that has a focus on the end user is Ubuntu. Despite all the energy that goes into this great piece of software it is missing that final touch that Apple or Microsoft do provide. Make their software a polished product anyone can use within 5 minutes.
This does not mean that Linux is not a good product! There are few engines that can be so well tuned to everyone’s need. You can use it to fly unmanned aerial vehicle, build supercomputers clusters or use it as the basis for the biggest databases. For many applications it forms the basis upon which they run. It is the foundation of the internet where it is used as the platform to run the HTML servers. That’s what Linux is great for: a solid basis to run dedicated software.
So are there no easy usable open source desktop interfaces? I say no. Google has Android which is based on Linux, the Apple interface runs on a far descendent of BSD which is Linux alike. Them you can hardly call ‘open source’! The, for everyone available free open source desktop, will never exist. The gigantic effort and (financial) resources that are needed to create it are only available from the large multinationals. And these multinationals won’t ever do this unless they can make a tremendous amount of money out of the ‘end user’.