As a programmer, I’ve found using Linux on my desktop rather rewarding. So rewarding I might consider stating Linux is ready for desktop use. But, when I do consider claiming that Linux is finally ready for relatives it dawns on me that I’m far from a good use case.
First off I use Emacs. This is not a mild usage of the one true editor, but in fact Emacs has become a daily tool that I’d say I can’t live without. Second up, I use StumpWM. This is a tiling window manager that is anything but user friendly. For instance, over the holidays, family members would consistently become frustrated trying to open a new window or web browser. Lastly, I’m a programmer! The vast majority of things I do on my computer deals with basic text and not much else. I’ve even started doing more basic web browsing in Emacs to save a little time.
While using myself as use case is not the best measurement of usability, it doesn’t really end there when ranking the desktop friendliness of Linux. One huge frustration of mine is sound. On the one hand, there are a ton cool programs for Linux having to do with sound. There are music players, drum machines, samplers and rather full featured recording applications. Unfortunately, rarely do they work. In fact, sound often stops working in Flash and doesn’t start working again unless I restart my browser. Say what you will of Windows and OS X, but sound works pretty darn well.
Personally, I’m totally fine with Linux not being ready for the desktop. It is only a matter of time really. The desktop is quickly becoming nothing more than a web browser and a series of web service clients. Linux will still need to seriously find a way to stop sucking at sound and improve video, but I suspect that it will. The only question then is whether it will even matter at that point.