Reflections on Sterling’s comments:
Linux isn’t going away and it is not constrained by the requirement that it make money. The only constraint for its continued growth that it has to be interesting to a sizeable number of people. Those who take an interest in it want it to be more useful and will often work to make it so. As it becomes more useful, it becomes more interesting to more people. Growth continues.
Apple has latched onto this cycle by open-sourcing the core of its OS X. Perhaps it will be enough. Perhaps not.
The main barrier that Linux faces is not Microsoft. It isn’t even the prevelance of closed file formats (where people can’t open Word documents in anything but Word). The main barrier that Linux faces is that your mother doesn’t know about it.
Windows is so ubiquitous that everyone is familiar with it. It brings a comfort level. Yes, mere mortals can use it, but, the fact is, mere mortals can use most anything if they set their mind to it. Once Linux has generated enough interest, people will produce the needed applications, and Linux use will skyrocket.