Back in 2001, there was a company who thought they could launch a sustainable business model around a file manager. They wrote the file manager itself, and figured they could profit from offering online services delivered through the file manager. However, the company ran out of money quickly, and wen they released version 1.0 of their file manager, they had to fire everyone, only to go down a few months later. That company was Eazel, and the file manager was Nautilus. Apparently, some saw this as the demise of the Linux desktop – others didn’t.Due to the position of Red Hat back in those days, many thought that Red Hat was Linux, and as such, the problems in the GNOME world were seen as much bigger problems for Linux than they actually were. GNOME may have been in trouble, but there was still KDE. “Because of the association of Red Hat with all things Linux at the time, many people had forgotten that another desktop environment, KDE, existed and was not harmed in the least by Eazel’s death,” Butler writes. GNOME itself wasn’t affected much either – it has thrived ever since.
In fact, the Linux desktop itself thrived. “Things have been successful – yet in May of 2001, I would have predicted far more success,” Butler writes. Sure, Ubuntu has risen to the top, major PC vendors now ship Linux, and Red Hat and Novell are making money off Linux. “But despite all the progress, when I look at the experience of using Linux in 2001 and compare it today, I have to ask, “Where did the last seven years go?”
According to Butler, it should have been Linux, not Apple, to challenge Microsoft on the desktop. However, Linux lacks what Apple does have: vision.
The problem is the same problem that doomed companies like Eazel: vision. The idea that a file manager could provide a sustainable business model in the twenty first century was somewhat silly at best. They may have had a good idea, but no vision for how to develop it into something that would pull in users and keep the company afloat. The Linux desktop, to the dismay of someone like myself, who founded Open for Business for the precise purpose of communicating Linux’s virtues, lacks vision. To beat the competitors, one needs either amazing volume or amazing vision. The former belongs to Microsoft, the latter to Apple. What then belongs to Linux?