Weird arbitrary exclusion

Story: Say Goodbye to Linux on the Desktop Total Replies: 35
Author Content

May 16, 2012
10:23 AM EDT
My desktop is a device and for me it matters that Linux is on it. In stead of dumping the desktop, why not expand to include the rest? If Linux runs servers, super computers, robots, embedded devices, phones, watches, alarm clocks, routers, why not include the trusty old desktop as well?

May 16, 2012
10:38 AM EDT
This is just stupid mentality on the author's part. While Linux may never have market share above 15% on the desktop, to abandon discussion of it is to concede battles like the battle against the UEFI secure boot fiasco. The slippery slope will take you to a place where it is functionally impossible to have a Linux based laptop, desktop or home server that will do anything other than some embedded device manufacturer tells you you can do with it. I will never concede that battle.

It's a FREEDOM issue. I have the right to run whatever software I want on my personal machines. Information, by its very nature, "wants" to be free. It's just like water, or air, or life,... it seeks it's equilibrium level. For information, that equilibrium is not contained.

May 16, 2012
11:23 AM EDT
Just because tablets and smart phones are becoming hot and very popular, that doesn't mean desktops are going to disappear. There is a role and a place for desktops and will still be around for a long time. As I always said, tablets, smart phones, and in general hand held devices are supplemental to desktops.

One change is for certain. The physical size of desktop is going to shrink but will remain more powerful.

I very recently bought couple of these machines to replace couple old desktops. The new ones are 20 times smaller in volume and 10 times more resourceful on average. Such and similar units will piggy back a monitor or TV and will play an important part of computing at home and business office environment.


May 16, 2012
11:53 AM EDT
There's nothing wrong with wanting to see that Linux is working well on more mobile devices. However, keyboards, mice (or touchpads or whatever else), and large monitors (the things that really make a computer a desktop) are not going to go away. That kind of interaction is simply more efficient for some things. Also, Linux usage on the desktop is higher than ever and only seems to be going up. I wouldn't let up now when people really are starting to use Linux.

May 16, 2012
12:19 PM EDT
Quoting:That kind of interaction is simply more efficient for some things. Also, Linux usage on the desktop is higher than ever and only seems to be going up.

Precisely, and that is why tablets and hand held devices are becoming popular. More and more people are using computers on the move.

Since Linux is more and more used for such devices that are supplemental to desktops, for compatibility and uniformity purposes, that will only make Linux more popular on desktops and Windows less relevant.


May 16, 2012
12:37 PM EDT
I dunno really. I think the future is still too uncertain to totally discount the obsolute blurring between the desktop and the mobile device.

Especially since we have been seeing Ubuntu being booted off a mobile device for desktop-style use.

Convergence just seems inevitable but I wouldn't bet on that just yet either.

The distinguishing thing about the desktop for me is primarily about computing power and also about the input devices. Mobile devices are starting to become very powerful. Not in the same league as my mega monster dev machine at home, but I don't see the demand for ever more powerful phones and tablets giving up.

I just think that the whole debate about the desktop is likely to become very moot.

May 16, 2012
1:18 PM EDT
skelband, try to do any significant work that requires real typing or significant processing power on "devices". The desktop isn't going away anytime soon. I also found it humorous that they considered netbooks to be "devices". They are just small form factor laptops, another form of desktop, just like Fettoosh's nettops.

May 16, 2012
3:28 PM EDT
I guess that's kinda my point.

I could never do the kind of work I do on a mobile device as they are now. The main issues for me are input/output devices and sheer power.

But that is now. We already have mobile phones with 4 processing cores and GPUs able to competently run some pretty stunning 3D games.

The real question on the power front is "How much power do you really need for a desktop machine?"

What the picture will look like in 5 or 10 years time I really couldn't reliably speculate at this point.

What I will predict though is that if the "everything in the cloud" thing doesn't take off like a lot of people think it will, having decent power in your pocket that contains all your "stuff", that you can carry around and dock up with some off-the-shelf input/output hardware where you work and at home is quite an interesting prospect.

I for one would be very interested in such a setup. Messing with USB keys and lugging around a heavy laptop so that I can be mobile between work and home is just not my ideal way of working. I'm practically doing what I describe above now albeit with a Macbook Pro.

Again, I refer the jury to the recent Ubuntu demo for a glimpse at one potential future.

May 16, 2012
3:43 PM EDT
Quoting:lugging around a heavy laptop so that I can be mobile between work and home is just not my ideal way of working.
The nice thing about netbooks is that, when running Linux, they have enough power to be a very functional desktop replacement doing real work. A 2 lb. device I can manage. A heavy laptop is just not for me anymore.

I don't mind USB keys or SD cards.

May 16, 2012
12:03 PM EDT
Another thought occurred to me.

I would actually question whether or not computing power is really the big issue for a lot of use cases.

For me, the lack of a keyboard and mouse is why I see no use of a touch tablet. An iPad has a reasonable amount of horsepower these days but the touch interface is entirely wrong for what I would want to use it for.

Additionally, the size of the iPad makes it hardly more portable than a decent laptop.

Give me a phone with a decent display like a Samsung Nexus with the power of a decent laptop that I can use as a phone and streaming media device but can drive an external display, keyboard and mouse through a convenient dock and I would be dead chuffed.

May 16, 2012
9:46 PM EDT
To skelband, I propose that the smartphone you mention is coming, and the blue tooth keyboard and mouse, with high resolution LCD that has auto-on when device approaches it, are all coming to a business office near you.

May 16, 2012
10:02 PM EDT
There is a phone like that already being advertised but I forget who offers it.IIRC it's a Windows phone which is a no-go for me.

May 16, 2012
10:04 PM EDT
> I would actually question whether or not computing power is really the big issue for a lot of use cases.

Once a certain plateau is reached, no. Most people can still get by fine if they're running an old Pentium 4, as long as they're running XP or Linux. It's only the upgrade to Windows 7 that requires a processor upgrade. And even there an older Athlon or Core 2 machine is sufficient. Memory seems to be much more of a factor for most people than processing power.

Some people use processor intensive programs or use virtual machines, and they need more processing power, but in my experience, most people don't actually need it.

May 16, 2012
10:26 PM EDT
> ...and the blue tooth keyboard and mouse, with high resolution LCD that has auto-on when device approaches it, are all coming to a business office near you.

Bluetooth keyboards and mice are already here, and have been for some time. As for wireless video, that looks like it's here too, but the quality may not be up to the wired standard yet. A Google search for "wireless docking station" turns up a number of options, though the ones I've actually seen in a store were limited to either 800x600 or 1024x768 video.

May 17, 2012
6:54 AM EDT
The argument that tablets can easily be used as desktop devices by adding a mouse & keyboard, adds no weight to the argument that the desktop is dead. It just reinforces the idea that there's always place for the desktop.

May 17, 2012
8:19 AM EDT
> The argument that tablets can easily be used as desktop devices by adding a mouse & keyboard, adds no weight to the argument that the desktop is dead...

Exactly. It actually means that the desktop will have become mobile too. But we're not there yet. Current tablets aren't quite powerful enough or affordable enough. Give them another generation or two.

May 17, 2012
9:37 AM EDT

We're getting close though... .If you have a smartphone, you have a device in your pocket that is about 1000x more powerful than the 1st or 2nd (and maybe 3rd) generation desktop machines. My first (or was it second?) IBM compatible machine was an Amstraad 386sx. My wife's first smartphone, a little thing made by Huwei, could run circles around that machine.

We've got about another 20 years or so until we hit Moore's Law limits on processor design with the current technologies. We can extend that maybe another 20 to 30 years with more exotic designs (different materials, multilayer processors, etc), before we have to change fundamental architecture (neural net processors, for example).

It will be only 2 to 3 years before a phone is powerful enough to duplicate the work of the average workstation for most tasks. High end stuff, like CAD and CGI rendering will take a bit longer. But this is coming soon. Ubuntu's "Ubuntu on Android" thing is a prime example. This and similar machines are like low end netbooks right now, but give them (a surprisingly short) time...

May 17, 2012
10:57 AM EDT
Quoting:Ubuntu's "Ubuntu on Android" thing is a prime example

Let's not forget KDE Plasma Active, which will be natively installed on different hand held devices and without needing an Android. Or may be an Android installed on top of Plasma Active. It is possible. :-)


May 17, 2012
12:11 PM EDT

That would be the best of both worlds.

May 17, 2012
4:35 PM EDT

My point is that how we define a desktop is key here. Can it be mobile? Does that mean it's not a desktop? And if so why?

The definition of a laptop and desktop are largely arbitrary labels.

I have a Macbook Pro in front of me now, but I use it as a desktop pretty much 99% of the time. I have the option of taking it home or using it on the move. I don't often, but I have the option.

It has 8Gig memory, 4-core i5 running at 2.8GHz. I can run multiple VMs on it (and do). I use an external monitor for 2-up usage. It's not as powerful as my home machine, but it's not far off it.

It doesn't have the desktop form factor, but it is ideal for my desktop-style usage.

What I'm saying is that gap between this device and something quite a bit smaller and handier is narrowing all the time.

The size of my Macbook is largely dictated by the screen, the battery, the keyboard and the DVD rom. I rarely use the DVD Rom drive. The laptop keyboard I never use. It's truly the most awful keyboard ever. I have an external "proper" one and a mouse that I keep at the desk. The battery is handy, but since the vast majority of my usage is at the desk, I hardly actually use the battery at all. Having the 2 large displays is nice, and I would be hard-pushed to go back, but I could have two monitors on my disk instead if the hardware allowed.

I have some personal work that I do at lunchtime and continue in the evening at home. I'm forever faffing around with different copies of the code on the different machines. I don't like to take my laptop home because it's so heavy so I copy my "stuff'" to a USB key then offload it when I get home. It's OK, but then I have some configuration to do to get the change implemented and get the environment right for my work.

It's easy to extrapolate what we have now to a near future where my (albeit largish) phone, could also double as my work machine and my home hobby machine.

In this future, has the desktop gone? No, but it has morphed into something more flexible.


May 17, 2012
6:53 PM EDT
There should very little disagreement about what a "desktop PC" is: it's a PC that sits on a desk and is not mobile. Very simple really. It doesn't matter if some other device you have works well as a substitute for that, the term exists in current usage to differentiate stationary personal computers from ones which are not stationary and have different form factors; trying to use the "desktop" moniker for other devices does nothing but create confusion, for no good reason.

In a nutshell: "desktop" - computer used for personal (i.e. one person at a time normally, whether for personal or business use) use, which normally sits on a desk, and is not really portable. It has a monitor (or multiple monitors), a keyboard, and a mouse on modern systems. A small number of such systems have the monitor and rest of the system (motherboard, drives, etc.) combined into one unit, the vast majority however have the monitor(s) separate from the "CPU case". Modern systems normally use "mini tower" cases, though there's more and more "small form factor" systems (such as the Mac Mini). Desktop PCs do NOT have batteries, with few exceptions.

"laptop" - computer which does the same job as a desktop PC for the most part, but is portable and has a battery built-in to allow computing without being plugged into a power outlet. Includes a keyboard and some type of pointing device (usually a trackpad), though an external mouse, full-size keyboard, and/or extra monitors can be plugged into USB ports or display ports or an optional "docking system".

"netbook" - computer which resembles a laptop in most ways, but is smaller. These frequently use SSDs in place of mechanical hard drives to improve battery life at the cost of storage space.

"tablet" - computer which resembles a netbook in some ways, but has no keyboard, and instead uses a touchscreen.

"smartphone" - computer which is handheld, has a touchscreen and usually no keyboard or a thumb-operated keyboard, and includes telephone functionality along with various other built-in peripherals such as a GPS sensor.

It's fully possible right now to make a smartphone that functions as a desktop, with a dock that connects it to a monitor and keyboard and mouse, but no one's bothered to do such a thing yet. But that doesn't make it a "desktop PC", that just makes it a mobile device that's serving in place of one.

It's probably also worth noting that there's real software differences between these systems as well; desktops and laptops and netbooks currently have OSes which allow users to install any software they want; smartphones and tablets generally do not, and only allow their users to install software from "app stores" and limit users' abilities in various other ways too. Basically, no one's running Android on a desktop or laptop, and no one's running OSX or Windows (the desktop versions, not Phone/CE/Mo) on a phone. There's a totally insignificant number of people running Linux (not Android) on a phone, though there's more running a special phone version of Linux (Maemo/Meego/whatever they're calling it now) which has different capabilities than a standard desktop/laptop Linux distribution.

Does this make it clear now?

It doesn't matter what you do on whatever system you have. We have terms to describe different things so that there's no confusion. "Cars" are used to go to the mall, commute to work, etc., and "trucks" are used to haul plywood and loads of gravel. Lots of people use their pickups to commute to work, but that doesn't make them "cars". Some people haul plywood on top of their cars, but that doesn't make them "trucks". And don't ask me which one an El Camino is, because no one knows the answer to that.

Yes, these labels are arbitrary, but ALL labels are arbitrary. The entire English language is arbitrary. Most people try to use commonly-accepted terms for things so they avoid confusion, instead of using different terms for things and annoying people when confusion results. Those terms may very well change over time (look at the word "telephone", which used to mean a giant wooden box on the wall with a handcrank, later a device you rented from Ma Bell, later a device that operated over radio but interfaced with the existing telephone system, and now a handheld touchscreen computer), as language and terminology evolve, but at any point in time, there generally are commonly-accepted definitions for various terms and it's best to follow those.

May 17, 2012
8:10 PM EDT
Thank you Khamul. That's what I would have typed up, except right now I'm obliging caitlyn. ;-)

May 17, 2012
8:17 PM EDT

You did a pretty good job defining all these devices and I agree with you, unfortunately you missed one, server is pretty much clear, but What is a workstation? ;-)


May 17, 2012
8:49 PM EDT

That's too easy. A "workstation" is more powerful -- and more expensive -- than a "desktop", They are most often dedicated to special purposes and running special software, and may have special peripherals as well. The defining factor is probably that they are for specific usage cases where the additional expense can be justified to management.

May 17, 2012
10:47 PM EDT

Hah, very good Khamul. Yes I do know what those terms mean and spelling them out was totally pointless. I'm glad that the point of my post went sailing right over your head.

My point wasn't that we have specific designations for things. That is glaringly obvious.

My point was that the whole debate about Linux breaking into the desktop is rapidly becoming moot because the range of things that we might call desktop, (or maybe not depending on what your perspective is) is diversifying.

Here's a question for you. What is a PC? Does it have to be x86-based? The original IBM ones were (broadly speaking of course). What about Arm-based desktops? Are they PCs? If not, why not? Or is it any desktop machine which a similar architecture? Does that include Microchannel? PCI-E? ISA? VL-BUS? What about laptops that have same architecture? Are they PCs if they have the same architecture? Or are they something different because they have a battery?

My point is that when people started talking about "PC"s years ago, it meant something very narrow and specific. These days, the term hardly means anything at all, the form factors and architectures are so varied. There is a broad range of hardware that is compatible. But is a rack-mount server a PC because it has a PCI-E-type architecture?

Yes we have arbitrary labels for classes of equipment. But they are marketing tags. They are a way of selling stuff.

But when we see articles talking about the demise of the desktop or discussing whether or not Linux has "made it" on the desktop, it has certainly made it on my desktop...which happens to be a laptop that spends 100% if its time on my desk. If I took the battery out, would it become a desktop as you understand it?

What if the thing that spends 100% of the time on my desktop is very small? What about a Mac Mini? Is that a desktop? If I took the battery out of my mega-powerful mobile phone, is that a desktop if I plug into it a keyboard, mouse and monitor?

These designations are all illusions. We categorise things because that's what humans do. Unfortunately, it also prevents us, at times, from thinking out of the box and daring to conceive of something a little different.


May 17, 2012
11:33 PM EDT
I'm trying to think of another clearer way of saying what I'm trying to say.

I'm not trying to be patronising, I just sometimes find it difficult to articulate what I'm thinking. And sorry if I sounded a bit rude above.

We have a spectrum of categories at the moment and they are broadly defined by their use-cases, but also they are compromises formed by the limits of our current technology.

The spectrum looks like this at the moment:

server - desktop - laptop - tablet - netbook - mobile phone

One of the things that you might notice is that they have different power levels, highest at the left, lowest at the right.

What people use as desktops at the moment is largely defined not by the fact that it is a big box that is permanently sat on or under the desk. It is defined by the processing power that we need for the job we are doing. Most of us here need as much power as we can get, me included so the desktop is what we use. However, in my case I use a laptop. It is not as powerful as my home machine which is a bit of a monster. But as a software developer it is fine. It runs Linux and on top of that I have a Windows Server 2008 VM. It had run perfectly acceptably with 3 VMs running concurrently. It gives me no problems whatsoever. About 10 years ago, it would have been unthinkable that I could do what I'm doing now. I could have used a laptop, but it would have been unsatisfactory and I would be forced into compromises all the time.

I see developers like us being more and more able to do what we do with machines towards the right. We have seen products on mobile phones running up Ubuntu. Slow probably at the moment, but how long will it stay that way? I see the movement fairly slow and evolutionary but the movement is there for anyone that cares to look.

Let's take a flight of fancy for a moment.

Mobile phone's processing power is limited primarily by the capacity of the battery. The CPU has to run fairly slowly and efficiently otherwise, you would get 1/2 hour life before it was dead. OK, how about a dual CPU setup? A slow CPU for phone usage; a fast butchy multi-core one when it is plugged into external power. We already have GPUs that do this in desktops. Or a single CPU with two modes. What about storage? When we plug it into a ground station, perhaps there could be a fast PCI-E interface to external storage via a special purpose dock. Perhaps the external dock could contain a GPU processor for taking the graphic load from the phone?

Manufacturers *are* pushing the boundaries and challenging our preconceptions about what we think about form factors. The Transformer, or different tablets that can be converted into laptops. Fancy docks for our laptops and tablets for desktop use.

They are having a varied amount of success partly because we have quite set ideas about what we need and partly because many of them fail to satisfy our requirements because they are difficult to use or the technology isn't quite there.

We are seeing the exact same thing happening from the other end of the spectrum. We had MP3 players, mobile phones, GPS devices and a host of other electronic stuff. I have a mobile phone that is powerful enough to do all of that now and it is a fairly cheap one at that. These devices are seeking each other out from both ends of the spectrum because the technology allows it to happen and I don't see the rate of the progress slowing any time soon.


May 18, 2012
1:59 AM EDT
@Khamul: When market research companies and most writers talk about the desktop they include netbooks, notebooks and laptops. Some also include tablets, some don't. While your definition is technically correct, of course, it doesn't match up to what most article talking about "the desktop" mean.

May 18, 2012
10:20 AM EDT
Desktops, Laptops, Set-tops, netbooks, tablets, smartphones, workstations, servers, etc. ... They are all just different terms for Computer (PC???) architecture, and they are (despite some minor differences, like ARM vs. x86) all more alike than not alike. After all, many of the same chipsets find their way from one architecture to another (i/o interfaces, wireless chipsets, display chipsets, USB interfaces, etc.).

The only major differences that matter are form factor, peripherals, expandability, use cases and openness. The reason the desktop form factor is here to stay (and MUST stay) is because it is the only form factor that supplies power, openness, expandability, and a variety of use cases. The desktop can be transformed into more things than any of the others. It can be home theater PC, manufacturing systems controller or monitoring station, server, CAD workstation, firewall, router, etc.

The main reason why the distinction between form factors is meaningless is because it is used to arbitrarily limit technology. For instance, Oracle's Java license makes Java on a PC open source, but on mobile not so,... What is the functional difference between a desktop PC running a Java VM, or a handheld MID doing the same?!?! It's like being able to patent an existing technology by just slapping "on the internet," in front of it.

May 18, 2012
12:55 PM EDT
We label object to describe what they are or do. We give computer devices labels for either to define their physical characteristics or functions. The problem is, when these labels are used, we really don't know exactly what is meant by it. It really is dependent on who created the label, who is using the devices, and in what function.

Vendors give devices they create labels to mostly designate and describe the physical characteristics of a computer. Users use the same designation to describe their function, even though some times their function is different from what they are labeled. For instance, a desktop can be used to function as a server, a laptop as a desktop, a netbook as/is a Laptop, a tablet as a laptop. Etc...

So @Khamul is correct in his definitions, they describes what OEM vendors use. As customers however, we use in different ways than the labels OEMs describe them. that doesn't matter since we are not the originators of the equipment.

Several years ago (around 1998), I was working for a company that has refineries in the Mid-West and along the East Coast. We used mid-size VMS servers (4000) to auto-control the refinery process (APC - Advanced Process Control) to optimize production. That brought in about $10 million more a year as opposed to manually controlled process. Equipment was getting old and it was time to upgrade the systems and we needed 5 systems. $40,000 for a server is peanuts compared to the revenues and the company had no problem upgrading. Being the fugal IT guru at the time, I decided to use simple workstations instead running VMS of course since the software only runs on VMS. Instead of using costly mid-size server, and the software doesn't need all the resources that comes with it, I elected to go with Alpha Evo 250 workstation. Since it was a total hardware & software upgrade, I had the luxury to build everything from scratch without impacting the running systems. Done that and proved its reliability and robustness, the production department had no issues at all. We ran it for a year and didn't have a hiccup until headquarter asked us to do the same in the east. When I sent the plan and specification, they blew a stack. We debated and they ended up contacting Gartner (Yes that Gartner) and they were told, yes desktops can be used as server but don't recommend it since vendors do NOT give them the attention and QA as legitimate server hardware.

Well, they did what was recommended to them and we kept ours. We had better recorded uptime than they did and the equipment was still running up till a year ago when vendor discontinued their old controllers hardware and moved to Windows with new controllers. That is another story to be told.

The complete spectrum should look like this at the moment: server – workstation - desktop - laptop - netbook - tablet - mobile phone

To me, PC (Personal Computer) is any device that functions as a computer no matter what the hardware or software are, and owned, managed, controlled, used by a single person at a time.

Server: Stationary multi-user multi-application shared computer.

Desktop: Stationary Personal Computer (PC), require monitor, keyboard, mouse & battery (can have VoIP)

Laptop: Mobile PC with its own attached monitor, keyboard, mouse & battery(can have VoIP)

Notebook/Netbook: Small, limited resources laptop. (can have VoIP)

Tablet: Laptop with touchscreen interface without keyboard or mouse. (can have VoIP)

Smartphone: Miniatured tablet with phone capability


May 18, 2012
1:08 PM EDT
@Fettoosh: Actually, at this point, I'd consider the "workstation" moniker to be dead, or at best a rarely-used synonym for "desktop" (but more clearly denoting the kind that isn't mobile). Years ago, it used to mean something; it meant a Unix system that sat on a desk rather than in a server room somewhere, and was used for high-end tasks, usually graphics (since those couldn't be done on dumb terminals). SGI was famous for making high-end workstations for instance. Now with Sun and SGI gone and that role replaced by either Linux running on commodity ("PC") hardware which is far more powerful than those obscenely-expensive workstations ever were, or by Macs or Windows, the term is close to dead.

@skelband: The "PC" term has become so generic now that it's mostly meaningless, IMO. Years ago, like "workstation", it used to mean something specific: a computer with IBM-compatible architecture. So Macs didn't count, nor did Unix workstations, nor did anything else that looked similar but couldn't run software which IBM PCs (and their descendants) could. That's all evolved away, and I don't see the term being used that much; when it is, it just seems to denote a computer that isn't a mobile phone or tablet, and somewhat resembles how a "PC" was used (i.e., monitor, keyboard, mouse). There's probably some die-hards who'll insist that anything that won't run x86 Windows can't be a "PC", but I think that's fading fast. But you're not going to find anyone calling their smartphone a "PC", and I think most people will just call their laptop a "laptop" or a "computer", though I could be wrong.

A lot of these terms' meanings are changing quickly. Remember, only a few years ago, a "tablet" computer really didn't exist outside of research labs or sci-fi. Sure, they had been tried before several times, but like the Apple Newton, didn't really go anywhere. I think I remember MS trying to make one years ago, and pushing the term. It wasn't until the iPad that they really caught on. Now all of a sudden, everyone and his brother has a "tablet" and is using the term (sometimes, more often they use the term "iPad").

However, I have to totally disagree about the usefulness of these terms. Suppose your spouse is in another room, and your computing devices are in there with her: a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. You want her to bring one of these devices to you, but not all three; if you don't have different terms for them, how do you communicate this? Obviously, you need separate terms for them, even if these terms may mean something somewhat different in 5 years. Oracle's license BS is a red herring; we're talking about casual conversation here, not legalese, which isn't even English. It should be self-evident that their license terms are garbage, and any reasonably intelligent judge should strike down that clause; if that doesn't happen, it's not a language problem, it's a problem with a failed judicial system. Why is it that Americans have such a fetish for legalese and courtrooms anyway, as if everything that goes on in a courtroom is more important than anything else in society?


May 18, 2012
1:37 PM EDT
Quoting:Actually, at this point, I'd consider the "workstation" moniker to be dead, ...

And that is why you don't see it in my list at the end.

You are right, the Workstation term was used only for Unix/VMS desk computers to differentiate them from X-Terminals and PCs. PCs at the time weren't considered as useful to do actual work while Unix workstations were workhorses on desks.


May 18, 2012
1:59 PM EDT

I don't think that labels are useless. What I do think is that the fixation on the label of "desktop" when trying to determine the future of Linux computing is blinding us to the future possibilities.

People talk about desktops in the context of a sea of millions of computing machines around the world and they say, when will Linux ever make it on the desktop? I just think that that's the wrong question.

This persistent obsession with the "desktop" is missing the crucial point that for the mass of computing that people are doing, the desktop is becoming less and less relevent for the vast majority of people. Linux (or "not Windows" perhaps) is already here. What we call the desktop is rapidly becoming a very small slice of an extremely large pie.

Microsoft already know this, and they don't know what to do about it. They are floundering around messing with Metro but with a desktop in Windows 8 and also with a phone OS. They seem to lack a coherent direction and Windows 8 is just such a confused mix of different ideas, it is destined to flop like Vista.

May 18, 2012
2:10 PM EDT
Actually, I have seen "workstation" applied to Wintel and Apple gear, for things like CAD (inc. AutoCAD), Desktop Publishing and graphics, even "heavy duty" accounting.

May 18, 2012
2:45 PM EDT
Quoting:Actually, I have seen "workstation" applied to Wintel and Apple gear, ...

That came later on when WinNT/XP were out. DOS-PCs weren't a consideration for real work before that.


May 18, 2012
4:30 PM EDT
I once saw a Windows 3.0 computer in a college computer lab with a printed label on the front which read "Windows Workstation".

Calling something a term doesn't always make it so.

May 18, 2012
4:44 PM EDT
Well, I guess as the gap between a SPARCstation and a souped-up PC narrowed, while the price difference diverged...

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