Linux's problems breaking into the desktop market are deep-rooted, stemming partly from a kernel development process geared excessively towards servers, according to a prominent Linux developer.
Con Kolivas, a Linux kernel developer who came to prominence for developing patches designed to speed up Linux's performance on the desktop, made the comments in an interview on Tuesday with IT news website APCmag.com, where he also discussed his decision to quit his software development activities.
Kolivas had no formal computer-science training, and first got involved with Linux development to see if he could speed up its performance on the desktop. From the beginning however, he found that most kernel developers showed little interest in the types of "userspace" issues he was working on.
"The names of all the kernel hackers I had come to respect... were all frantically working away on this new and improved kernel and pretty much everyone was working on all this enterprise crap that a desktop cares not about," Kolivas said. "They had all been employed by big name manufacturers who couldn't care less about the desktop (and still don't) but want their last 1-percent on their database benchmark or throughput benchmark or whatever."
The problem isn't just neglect, however - the kernel improvements aimed at addressing enterprise server issues such as throughput and server performance actually cause user issues with latency or responsiveness to worsen, Kolivas said.
"While I obviously like to see Linux run on 1,024 CPUs and 1,000 hard drives, I loathe the fact that to implement that we have to kill performance on the desktop," he said.
User performance issues are next to impossible to quantify, meaning that Linux desktops still show obvious problems such as skipping audio playback or the inability to smoothly drag a window across the desktop, Kolivas said.
By Kolivas' account, desktop Linux problems seem set to remain as long as "userspace" problems continue to be given little or no priority.
"I think the kernel developers at large haven't got the faintest idea just how big the problems in userspace are," he said.