Linux Desktops for Horizon View


I started using GUI based operating systems on the Commodore Amiga 500 back in the 1980s. It was a marvel of technology and engineering at the time. Just think, an entire OS, games, utilities, development platform, 3D graphics and production quality sound card booting off a 1.44MB floppy. It was aimed at the “every user” and worked very well.

Atari came out with a clone and MacOS was still buggy and black and white. Unfortunately Microsoft came out as the de-facto desktop GUI for 20 years, with little competition due mainly to clever business deals. This held back many possible alternatives along the way such as BeOS , which was a 64bit OS in 1991 with full multi-media and graphics capabilities.

Applications were king and people developed for Windows, for years and years. Then something started changing around 2005, applications started becoming a lot more sophisticated on the web. MySpace had been around for a couple of years, and Facebook had just started gaining considerable traction. Other sites were popping up every minute that were garnering considerable mindshare and people were focusing on SaaS applications, not desktop applications. This trend has continued faster over the last decade and has forced Microsoft to change it’s business model. Office 365 came around and now MS provides hosted Remote App servers.

Apple saw this coming and now gives away it’s operating system for free with it’s hardware with free upgrades for the life of the hardware.

The user OS has become a commodity, so why do people still use Windows? Habit, familiarity. The truth is that as people use desktops less and less and move towards mobile devices and pervasive technology as the go to for information consumption, the Windows OS will fade.

Here is an example, what is the market share for windows based phones? Have a look at the purple line on the graph. 2.5%

Apple has sold about 600 Million iPhones worldwide. That means every 12th person in the world could have an iPhone.

However, look at the graph and see that they only have about 11% of the marketshare.

Android (which is Linux) is free, stable, feature rich and has 84% of the worldwide market.

Period Android iOS Windows Phone BlackBerry OS Others
Q2 2014 84.7% 11.7% 2.5% 0.5% 0.7%
Q2 2013 79.6% 13.0% 3.4% 2.8% 1.2%
Q2 2012 69.3% 16.6% 3.1% 4.9% 6.1%
Q2 2011 36.1% 18.3% 1.2% 13.6% 30.8%

Source: IDC, 2014 Q2

Desktop Linux has been a love / hate relationship for me for over a decade. I started with KDE in early 2000 as a graphical way of having multiple terminal sessions and editing text files. It was kludgy, had many knobs and whistles and somewhat ugly. I replaced this with Gnome as my standard window manager, as it was much more appealing and polished. I also tried Enlightenment, which had features like virtual workspaces that you could toggle through. It was very buggy though and the first “stable release” was just in 2012. I now use Unity as my go to windows manager.

This graph, however satirical does have an element of truth.


One could argue that the blue section is small because of how efficient Linux admins are. 🙂

See the big yellow section? That was my holy-grail goal for many years. Run all Windows apps on Linux. I was fairly successful through a combination of using either Wine or Codeweavers Crossover Office. I could use about 98% of all the applications in Windows I ever wanted. The time to test, deploy and tweak them to work optimally was a pain though.

A few years ago, Google said people should forget the idea of local apps and go all in with SaaS. So they released Google Apps, Google App Engine for a PaaS offering (for developers), and Google Compute Engine for core infrastructure.

To tie the entire stack together for the end user, they released chromebooks and chromeboxes. Desktop and laptop computers that were less than $200, had amazing specs, ran Linux and completely made use of SaaS.

So how does this all relate to Linux as a desktop in Horizon View? Well it sets the stage for a massive shift that we will see in the near future. VMware has catered to Linux Desktops very little until now. However just recently in China, they announced that they will be working on releasing support for Linux Desktops in addition to Windows.

Personally, I can’t wait until they do it and I’ll be there with both feet in. I feel confident that Linux will have a significant share of the market in desktops in the next few years because of the shifts in end user computing.

Right now it’s all hush hush, mums the word, but this is how I think they will do it.

LTSP Clusters, Docker, and an orchestration engine that will allow for automation.  If LTSP is run as a docker instance, it becomes very portable and simple to deploy as the requirement for user sessions increases. You could have a few massive VMs that run several LTSP containers and spawn them and destroy them based on load. If load reaches 80% and may increase past that, then another VM can be spawned with docker. Then more LTSP instances can be run there and the overall load can be balanced.

The client connectivity protocol is what needs to be figured out right now though. NoMachine has been at the forefront of creating enterprise grade clients that allow connectivity to Linux, Mac and Windows desktops. Will the connection protocol use NX, which is X-Windows display protocol encrypted and compressed, or RDP, or PCoIP?

If you have any thoughts on that model, feel free to give me a shout, as I will be doing my own testing in the near future.


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