I have been a Linux enthusiast for the last 5 years and have suggested a lot of users to switch to Ubuntu or Linux Mint. However, very few users have actually moved. Most of them have cited concerns of familiarity. Even developers who use linux in the day jobs prefer using windows as the main machine. I have seen very experienced and senior devs doing that. I know a lot of the readers might disagree but its a fact. There are reasons and I can clearly see why Linux is still struggling to get itself adopted among the masses. Lets see the important reasons.
1. Microsoft Office ( Word, Powerpoint, Excel): Agree or disagree this is the biggest and the single most reason why users do no switch to Linux. OpenOffice or Libreoffice is also available on windows, very few people actually use it. Its actually true that users hate to use libreoffice. Now the question may be why? It is because
a) they hate the interface: Lets face it! Libre office interface is like 10 years old. It sucks big time. I have spoken to a range of users, starting from students to directors of companies. They just hate the interface. Unless the devs can come out with a UI as good as MS Office, its game over! Users will use pirated software but not openoffice.
b) of compatibility issues: Its high time that the developers of Libreoffice acknowledge that there is a compatibility issue. When using a .doc file, the formatting of a word document, even the basic ones like bullet points and tables go haywire. Documents with 2-3 pages can be handled but not a document of 50 pages. Please! Its practically impossible. As for the.docx format, the lesser said, the better. Even though governments across the world are saying .odf and .odt should be made default formats, the business world still sticks to .doc and .docx. Try finding a single recruitment agency in US, UK and India which accepts your CV in .odt format. No one does; at-least the top notch agencies don’t. Also in educational institutions, all of them accept their dissertations, assignments and course work only in .doc and .docx format.
2. Microsoft Exchange: A very big headache. Until and unless developers at Novell and openchange can build a proper driver or application to work with MS exchange, it is very difficult to get users converted. Apple has Entourage which downloads Exchange emails without issues. Compared to that Evolution is buggy and sluggish. It is also very slow in retrieving emails. A lot of universities still use exchange for emails and it becomes very difficult for students to access the emails. Web interface also a limited features unless you use Internet Explorer. Even bigger problem is archiving. Since official and university mailboxes are very small, it becomes difficult to keep all emails on the server unless you archive them. Outlook allows archiving. Thunderbird and evolution does not allow archiving through IMAP/POP protocol.
3. Webex: Web conferences and meetings leader Cisco does not support Linux properly. And it is the same case with AT&T in USA. It is one of the biggest reasons why enterprise users will stay away from Linux machines. Ubuntu’s drawback? it does not have its own protocol for web meetings. Whatever is present is immensely complicated to setup. Business users do not have the time !
4. File sharing: A big headache! When it comes to file sharing, Ubuntu and Linux sucks. It is so hard to setup file sharing even within a home network when you compare the simple Homegroup sharing feature of Windows 7. Samba does not come preinstalled; its editing interface is confusing for novice users.
5. Mobile Phone suites: At the moment there is not a single proper mobile phone suite available to run on linux. Wammu /gammu is the application with a horrible interface and doubtful capabilities for accessing phones and its contents.
iPhones can never be activated through Linux. Android phones from Sony Ericsson, Samsung allow software updates through the PC suites which are only available for Mac and Windows. Wine does not support either of these applications.
In this day and age,when mobile phones are an absolute necessity and are widely available, it should be the prime concern for companies like Canonical to build a decent application or atleast collaborate with a manufacturer.
6. Graphics drivers: The newest of all problems is hybrid graphics drivers. A lot of new laptops are being shipped with hybrid drivers. No a single stable hybrid driver is available for these graphics cards. Why would a student invest 4-5 hours installing and configuring bumblebee and ironhide?
What should the Linux community do?
The community should start looking into these issues asap. There is no point in maintaining 50 linux distributions and 30 window managers which are half baked. Its waste of manhours and talent. If all these efforts are channelised into a few projects the quality of the products will improve dramatically.
Companies like Canonical should start looking into these issues more seriously. Instead of trying to build new desktop interfaces; basic issues of Ubuntu should be resolved. For example power management: Linux 3.0 kernel gives atlest 30 min less battery life than windows 7. This is really a drawback when battery life is very precious.
Canonical should invest more time in Libreoffice and get it revamped. The current proposed UI is nice. I am hoping the Libreoffice devs can quickly develop and launch before Ubuntu 12.04 is released.
There is still a lot to improve. Unless the Linux Community can realise these drawbacks and address them, Ubuntu and Linux will always remain a geek’s OS.