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Today, you can do everything you want with a Linux desktop, except play the latest games. Even there, Linux is catching up. So why do only a handful of people run Linux instead of Windows? Here are my top four reasons why Windows wins and Linux loses.

Before I start, though, let me say—because people always assume I’m anti-Linux when I write pieces like this—that I use Linux desktops every day. I’m writing this on a SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 system, I run MEPIS 6.01 and Xandros Professional Desktop 4.1 on my laptops, and on my other desktops that I use at least weekly, you’ll find Freespire 1.0, Fedora Core 6, and openSUSE 10.2. In short, I use Linux. I love Linux. But, that doesn’t mean I’m blind to business reality, Windows virtues, or Linux flaws.

So, without further adieu, the No. 1 reason why Linux trails in the desktop races.

1. The installed base

There are, what, hundreds of millions of Windows XP and 2000 systems still out there and working? That’s a lot of systems. That’s a lot of people who know nothing but Windows.

Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth claims that there are at least 8 million Ubuntu Linux desktops alone out there. I wish I could believe that number, but I don’t.

I could believe that there are 8 million total Linux desktops out there. If we accept that there are 8 million Linux desktops out there, based on IDC’s Linux market share estimates that would mean we’re talking over a billion Windows desktops out there. Ouch.

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