Linus Torvalds wins the desktop; Chromebooks outsell Macbooks

linus torvalds
Credit: windhole/Flickr

2016 just might be the year of the Linux desktop.


Three facts: PC sales continue to decline. Macbooks continue to grow as a share of PC shipments. And in the first quarter of 2016, Chromebooks outsold Macbooks. Yes, you read that right. According to IDC analyst Linn Huang, Chromebooks beat Macs in overall shipments in the U.S.

With that news, Linus Torvalds is ready to declare desktop victory. On Thursday last week, Torvalds posted on his Google+ page: “Hey, either Macs don't count much on the desktop, or we may have to finally lay the 'year of the Linux desktop' joke to rest.”

One Google+ reader commented that Chrome OS, the Linux-based operating system that runs on Chromebooks is "a web browser, not a desktop. Good thing, but not the same at all.”

Torvalds' response to that commenter hits the nail on the head:

It's not a desktop exactly the same way that PC's were not "real computers" when they started showing up?

The arguments were the same back then. "Cheap toy, you can't get real work done".

The whole "it's not the same thing" is simply not an argument. Of course it's not the same thing. Computing changes all the time.”

Today, when I look at PCs in my home, I am the only one using a full-fledged desktop PC because I need to do resource-intensive work like film and video editing; everyone else in my family is either using a smartphone, tablet or Chromebook as their primary device.

Until the iPhone and iPad came along, if you needed any kind of computing power your only option was a PC. It didn’t matter that all you needed to do was send email to friend, or chat with family members or create documents… all you could buy back then was PC. Today, in many ways, a smartphone can do more than what a PC can.

So, as Torvalds said, the PC is changing. It has changed. And Chromebooks are offering what a majority of users need.

Another oft-repeated argument is that Chrome OS and Android are not Linux. Of course they are. The fact is Linux is just the kernel. Period. As Greg Kroah-Hartman once told me, “'Linux' is just a kernel, everything else is just 'fluff'.”

Every device that runs on Ubuntu, Chrome OS, Android or Tizen … is a Linux-based device. Every OS that uses the Linux kernel is a Linux-based operating system. The userland may be different. The packaging of the operating system, depending on the target audience, may be different. But that doesn’t dilute the fact that it’s Linux.

I think Torvalds got his desktop.

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