Linux is struggling on the desktop because it only has a small number of "great" apps, according to the Gnome co-creator.
Miguel de Icaza, co-creator of the Gnome desktop, told tech journalist Tim Anderson at the recent Windows 8 Build conference that Linux desktops have failed because they never cracked the application problem.
"When you count how many great desktop apps there are on Linux, you can probably name 10," de Icaza said, according to a post on Anderson's IT Writing blog. "You work really hard, you can probably name 20. We’ve managed to p*** off developers every step of the way, breaking APIs all the time."
He said it's unlikely that there will be an open-source equivalent of Windows 8's Metro UI and the apps that go with it, and the problem stems from incompatibilities between different distributions.
"To be honest, with Linux on the desktop, the benefits of open source have really played against Linux on the desktop in that we keep breaking things," he said. "It is not only incompatibilities between Red Hat, Unbuntu, Suse, but even between the same distribution. Ubuntu from this week is incompatible with the one nine months ago. And then there are multiple editions, the KDE version, the Gnome edition, the one that is the new launching system."
"I’m heartbroken, that’s the bottom line," he said, adding: "I think that Linux has a tough time on the desktop. And the desktop is starting to not matter any more."
Oddly, de Icaza was more positive about Windows, saying he expected it to be a success, and that rules around app APIs should help "finally fix the security problems on Windows".
"I have to say, I actually like Windows 8," he told Anderson. "I am not a Windows user. It’s probably the first time that I would use a Windows machine."