What's wrong, guys? Do you think I'm some sort of deep Redmond mole, cloaking myself in the flag of F/OSS while behind the scenes I act my part as the paided [sic] Microsoft shill? In a way I wish that were true, because there are times I could certainly use the money. But I also realize I need to be careful just where I make my living, because in the end I have to live with myself and the consequences (both intended and unintended) of my actions. I learned that bitter lesson all too well in the 1980s, in part by supporting and evangelising early Microsoft.
If you guys pursued overall F/OSS quality with the same zeal you pursue the sins of Novell and Microsoft (real and imagined) then you'd be a much stronger force for good. And based on my experiences with SuSE/openSUSE, Redhat/Fedora, Mandrake/Mandriva, Ubuntu, and Slackware I've seen wild variations in quality and regressions over the years (decades on some of them). The greatest variations (and aggravations) have been over the last 18 months. The high point of all of these distributions came during 1Q07, with the release of Ubuntu 7.04 and openSUSE 10.2. Those two distributions were a high-water mark for both distributions as well as Linux in general. Since that release each has produced buggy releases relative to 7.04/10.2 and bumpy beta cycles. Fedora's been a wreck since Fedora Core 3, and Mandriva has finally climbed to the point where it's producing consistent back-to-back releases of good quality.
And then, of course, there's the interesting article on Linux.com (It's time to retire "ready for the desktop") which is an interesting counterpoint to the Linux Torvalds interview back in February (Linus Torvalds on Why Users Aren't Flocking to Linux). In fact Linus' interview should give you a Clue as to why Redhat and Novell aren't pursuing the commercial desktop with the same vigor they're going after the business side of things. Linus summed it up best when he said
The desktop is also the thing where people get really upset if something changes, so it’s really hard to enter the desktop market because people are used to whatever they used before, mostly Windows.And when you're quality is inconsistent between distribution releases, when features that worked in one release stop working or work incorrectly in the next, that annoys users new and old.
Going back to Linus' comment, I'm willing to bet good money that KDE 3 is going to hang around a lot longer than the KDE developers expect. And that if they want KDE 4 to gain the same wide-spread use as KDE 3, then they're going to have to lay the exact same KDE 3 functionality and work flow into KDE 4, or suffer the same backlash and anger that Vista has suffered.
And as for Silverlight acceptance, it won't happen. And here's a clue as to why. Back in the day when the Mac was first introduced, Adobe's PostScript (Type 1 fonts) were the only way to do good typesetting. The problem was that Type 1's specifications were not published and PostScript was expensive. Type 1 font engines cost a chunk of change which Apple had no desire to fork over to Adobe (in fact it was Gassée, the progenator of Be OS, who informed Warnock in 1989 that Apple was paying too much for PostScript). Gassée wanted a cheaper version of Type 1 for his "cheap" Macs, and when Adobe refused to give him what he wanted he turned to Microsoft and True Image, a.k.a. TrueType. On September 29 1989 Apple and Microsoft announced the new standard TrueType for display and printing. Apple (via Gassée) helped Microsoft stab Adobe in the back. And Adobe has not forgotten. That's why Adobe is doing everything it can to make Flash adaptation as frictionless as possible. And many in the developer community haven't forgotten either. That stunt cost Apple and contributed to its near-death experience before Jobs came back in 1997. And it's going to cost Microsoft in its push to get Silverlight adopted.
What will help Linux beat Microsoft? Quality and attention to detail. Writing about Microsoft's sins might help, but not so long as each release is inconsistent in its quality and behavior. The differences in the desktop are bad enough (see Torvalds above) without the distributions adding insult to injury with poor release quality. The day that the community in general realizes this and decides to act on it is the day that Linux really will move to unseat Windows on the desktop. But until that day comes Linux will remain a niche player and its most ardent supporters bitter apologists seeing Microsoft-inspired conspiracies behind every action they deem harmful to Linux.