Soon the most popular 'real' desktop will be the Linux desktop
Microsoft is moving Windows to the cloud and Apple will be happy to have you run macOS on the cloud
Opinion If you count Android and Chrome OS as Linux, which I do, the Linux desktop accounts for 44.98 percent of the end user market. But if your idea of the "Linux desktop" has a front end of Cinnamon, GNOME or KDE, then it's more like 3.06 percent. Better than it has been at times, but it's no "Year of the Linux desktop." Maybe, though, it will be someday.
That's not because suddenly, everyone will realize that the Linux desktop is wonderful. Sorry, folks, if it hasn't happened by now, it never will.
But there's another way the conventional idea of a Linux desktop could become the top PC-based operating system. That's if its competition ceded the field.
And that's exactly what Microsoft has been doing.
For years, I've been watching Microsoft working on moving you from PC Windows to a cloud-based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) model. More proof has recently surfaced, further substantiating Microsoft's grand cloud desktop scheme.
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Windows Central senior editor Zac Bowden recently discovered an internal document from Microsoft's attempted acquisition of Activision. This June 2022 presentation revealed Microsoft intends to "Move Windows 11 increasingly to the cloud: Build on Windows 365 to enable a full Windows operating system streamed from the cloud to any device. Use the power of the cloud and client to enable improved AI-powered services and full roaming of people's digital experience."
The goal is to deliver a consumer version of the Windows 365 Cloud PC. There are already two Windows DaaS versions: Business and Enterprise. You can run these on a Windows PC, a Chromebook, a Linux PC, or even an iPad. They are engineered to bring Windows to virtually any platform. You can even run them on an Android smartphone or an iPhone, if you're a glutton for punishment.
These aren't cheap. They start at $31 per user, per month. This gives you a 4GB Azure VM with 128GB of storage, plus Microsoft 365 apps, Outlook, and OneDrive.
On Windows 11 PCs, you can access your Cloud PCs through the Windows 365 app. In the coming months, Windows 365 Boot, currently in beta, will allow you to log directly into your Windows 365 Cloud PC without booting your local Windows 11 PC.
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This aims to enable multiple users to use the same PC to log into their own private, assigned, and secure Cloud PC. Its target market includes nurses, salespeople, and call center employees who share business devices.
Pricing for this version remains unclear. We also don't have a price for the family version yet. There's speculation that it might be $10 a month for a "family" account. If true, this would be a loss-leader price aimed at encouraging people to try Windows 365.
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Now you may say, "There's no way I'm going to 'subscribe' to a cloud version of Windows." Really? Tell me, are you running Office 2019/2021 or Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) at a cost of at least $70 a year? 345 million of you are already paying for Microsoft 365. The various flavors of Office 20xx? Not so many. Nothing like as many.
That's exactly what Microsoft wants. "At Microsoft, we believe that the cloud will power the work of the future. Overwhelmingly, our customers are choosing the cloud to empower their people." It's also how Microsoft makes its coin. Soon enough, perhaps by the end of the decade, most Windows users will subscribe to cloud-based Windows.
Of course, that won't work for everyone. Hardcore gamers? No way.
Over in Apple land, serious photography and video workers will still run high-powered and high-cost Macs. Others, however, will use the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Mac mini as a service or other Macs on the cloud services such as Virtual Mac OS X, MacStadium, and MacinCloud.
Do you know who else won't be following Apple or Microsoft to the cloud? People who care about privacy, folks who want control over their data on their machines, and PC power users.
And where will these good people go? Three guesses, and the first two don't count. Yes, it's Linux. That's why Linux will finally emerge as the top PC operating system.
Mind you, it's going to be a much smaller PC market than the one we have today. Those are the breaks. But for people who want a real desktop operating system, Linux will be their first and, indeed, almost their only choice. ®