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Microsoft's desktop supremacy hasn't been down to "it's got a nice, easy to use interface" for at least 20 years.

Rather, Microsoft is (or was, in the pre-post-PC world) everywhere because of (a) licensing stitch-ups with hardware vendors and (b) network externalities: get into Corporate IT departments with Office, then people will want (or need) to use the same OS at home, and then you can strong-arm hardware vendors into signing exclusive Windows-only-on-our-PCs licensing deals, which in turn convinces Corporate IT that there's no viable alternative to a Windows-only ecosystem ...

Arguments about whether or not Linux is fit for desktop use by non-technical users miss the point: Windows' monopoly status was a virtuous circle (for a value of "virtuous" that approximates to "in the interests of MSFTs shareholders and provides job security for MCSEs") until the wheels fell off when confronted with an even bigger ecosystem that came out of nowhere. Which is the magic rabbit Apple pulled out of a hat with the iPad, and Google seeks to emulate with Android.

The desktop is now irrelevant -- less than 10% of computing devices people use are desktops or laptops: it's all gone mobile frighteningly fast -- but for what it's worth, Linux won. Because the winning Linux desktop is actually a phonetop or tablet environment: Android.

Irrelevant to watching movies and listening to music chatting with mates and generally using a computer for the purpose of entertainment maybe? Because the real work needs a real computer. One with a keyboard you can type on, a screen which can show some decent amount of information, printers and mice and compilers and more than 2GB of ram. There are more computers than ever in play, their numbers have been eclipsed by all these toy devices however. That does not mean the real computers are irrelevant at all.

And even for entertainment, are you seriously telling me these little ARM devices with no good input devices, ps-1 calibre graphical capabilities, and MINISCULE screens are making computers which run the latest big games irrelevant? People who are into games have been talking about GTA-V and the like lately, not simple side scrollers and 2d physics games where you launch birds at pigs.

Again, it need not be a "windows" desktop. you can do seriuos work with Linux or Mac desktop. And you may be more productive as well.

The desktop is now irrelevant -- less than 10% of computing devices people use are desktops or laptops: it's all gone mobile frighteningly fast.

It's ironic that you probably typed that with a desktop or laptop. Irrelevant? Hardly.

Dirty little secret: most people aren't content creators, even for values of "content" such as discussion topic comments.

I think that's the point. While ~10% of computing devices are keyboarded, traditional machines,.. >>10% of content is created on them; which makes them hardly 'irrelevant'

I compose the large majority of my hacker news comments on my nexus 4 phone.

And what percentage of your total content creation output is that?

Well before I started posting code on github a few months ago, it was probably a pretty high percentage. But I see what you mean.

But 90% of content is made on them and is hardly changing anytime soon.

That's very true. And this is the very reason why tablets and smartphones are so popular - most people need only a screen with the Internet access to consume content, but those who produce the content will still need a bigger device.

I actually noticed this story on my phone during a movie break last night but waited to read it until I could get on my PC (running Ubuntu BTW) so I could read it more comfortably.

Further, I dislike the touch interface of phones. I may connect a mouse to it so I can see if it's more usable. Then I'd need a Bluetooth keyboard too of course. And since my older eyes strain a bit with the tiny screen I'll probably get a SlimPort so I can read the screen on my regular monitor. Wait! My phone is now a PC!!

There is data that indicates that even filling out longer pieces of text and forms is on the rise. places like Plenty of Fish has real data about who is willing to fill out forms with a mobile devices and the numbers were surprising (to me at least)


Similarly after that article was published, I saw the analytics of a large university and could see the amount of mobile use increasing (thought not as dramatically as POF) with tasks as complex as filling out a college application.

In the end, I'm surprised, but yes, people fill out dating profiles, college applications, and even Hacker News comments from mobile devices more and more.

FYI -- don't always assume this. I frequently type posts of this length and detail on my Droid 4 (good keyboard).

Phones with keyboards are a dying breed, however -- that's more interesting.

Laptops/desktops = producers. Mobile = consumers. It's that simple.

Seriously naive given the number of people using tablets for content creation. For me, most of my notes and writing are done on my iPad rather than my laptop. It is a more focused experience.

Programming/development it my MBP.

Android's prevalence isn't the victory for Linux that you say it is. Linux is much more about a culture of openness and freedom than it is about the specific kernel used. I—a diehard Linux fan—would be much happier to have a BSD flavor on my phone than the locked-down, carrier-controlled Linux-kernel-based operating system I currently use.

Linux kernel has been a huge success for many many years but GNU/Linux distributions are a mess.

This. No sane person should respond to "I need something simple" with "I'll install Windows"

Serious question, since you have the stats: have people replaced 90% of their desktop and laptop usage with other computing devices, or do they now use computing devices generally 10x more than they used to? That is, just because we have smart phones etc, do we really use "computers" less than we used to? I doubt it, since I don't think tablets have replaced computers at work to that degree.

I agree, I think cstross is extrapolating from sales, which (as per recent discussion[1]) is not a reasonable assumption to make.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6606056

I'd like some citation to the 'less than 10%'.

The best I can do is find some browser stats - in this case, mobile seems to be making up 17% of the browser user agents as of July.


edit: interestingly, chrome appears to be growing faster than all mobile browsers combined.

> desktop is now irrelevant

I disagree completely. Why don't you write all your books on an iPad? It's not the tool for the job. In my opinion 20 years from now, assuming we don't have cortical implants or similar, people are going to go to work and sit down in front of a monitor with a keyboard and a mouse. It won't be so different to how people worked 20 years ago.

MSFT completely agrees with you. The see the Zeitgeist going towards more and more devices so they are scrambling to make handsets and tablets that no one wants to buy. They totally ignored the core desktop user with Windows 8. But this has to do with being a publicly traded company I think. For some reason a slow and steady market like desktops isn't good enough. They can't go to the investors and say "We aren't the sexy new thing, but we'll continue to make boatloads of money for the foreseeable future." (Honestly I'm not sure why they can't do that, but companies have to plan on growing for some reason.)

At some point in time desktop was a must-have to get any meaningful work done. Especially a windows desktop. whatever the work may be. today thats not the case. In fact, lot of work cannot be done with windows desktop anymore. We need windows only to access windows specific legacy software, that enterprises are still using, such as outlook, excel, powerpoint etc. It is the IT groups in large companies that is holding the fort for microsoft. But, how long they can defend microsoft? Probably not much longer. Still intel is a major partner for microsoft. With ARM 64 bit coming in 2014, intel faces steep competition. ARM and linux go way better than ARM and windows. IT guys will eventually probably disappear foreever.

So you think the reason you don't walk into an office and see everyone using an on-screen keyboard on their iPad is because of legacy Windows software? We have Microsoft to thank as the last defender of the keyboard?


Microsoft's desktop supremacy hasn't been down to "it's got a nice, easy to use interface" for at least 20 years.

Whilst I generally agree with your statement, I don't think it's due to MS having a good interface as opposed to Linux having a not so polished interface. This was a deal breaker for a lot of people I know in the not-so-tech-savvy world. Things have changed a lot in the past few years, but a lot of damage was done by then.

"less than 10% of computing devices people use are desktops or laptops"

You're going to need a citation for this, I don't believe it to be remotely true.

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