As with most things in life, I think the answer lies in the middle of two extremes. Waldo does a great job of pinpointing at least a partial view of these extremes:
waldo wrote:As you can see by now, mintnoob, you have done gone and opened up the proverbial can of worms! By asking the question, you obviously think that there are too many choices, and I agree with that. But you and I are in a minority of Linux users that participate in forums like this one.
We (I think I am speaking for you here) would like to see Linux become a viable choice for the average user who now only has the option of Windows or Mac (if you like to spend more money!). Choosing Linux should not be any more of a commitment to learning than it is now with Windows or Mac. We see the benefit of Linux as a good thing that we would like to share with those that are not quite so enamored with the minutiae of computers.
I did not answer the poll but, like quite a few other posters in this thread, I do agree that all the choice DOES have a detrimental effect on attracting new users. It was this choice that attracted me but I agree that "most" people just see an OS as a means to an end. In that regard they should not have to learn anything or have to think about anything. It is merely an interface to run their programs or apps on.
I vehemently disagree that Linux is any harder than Windows or OS X! There is not any more of a commitment in learning Linux than there is the other two operating systems. It is an unfortunate fact of life that most people younger than 30 grew up using Windows. This has influenced the way in which most people think about computers. But just because Linux does things differently does not mean it is harder. Only that most people just do not understand it.
At the other side, we have the view so eloquently expressed by Fred
It probably would be with precisely the users that Linux DOESN'T need. Linux is gaining user/contributors all the time. Typical mainstream Windows users with no desire to learn or contribute are a liability to the Linux community, not an asset. They bring nothing of value to the table.
Wow! Fred speaks a harsh truth. But this is what the FOSS community has traditionally been about. For the longest time now it was only those of us who were enthusiastic about Linux that learned it and participated in the community. The pain of using it deterred what I like to call the "free Windows" crowd. Only those who WANTED to develop the skills necessary would stick around long enough to make a difference. And we ALL gave back! Some were the uber-geek gurus who worked their way into the project development communities. Others, like Clem, just had a "better" vision of what Linux could be. Some, like me, who did not have the coding skills, did what we could by trying to help other users. Some of us used testing distros that were at the forefront of defining what tomorrows Linux was to be. We were the guinea pigs. Others wrote tutorials, or blogged about Linux, or became ambassadors working LUGs and Linux Fests. Many just quietly used their distros and that was cool too. It was a small community and we all did what we could, or what we wanted.
But now things are changing. Now it is becoming big business. Now we are besieged by a whole generation of "takers" who demand an idiot-proof OS for free. They are not willing to contribute in any manner except by making demanding posts in forums insisting that THEIR vision of Linux be implemented. They bring their "beat Windows and rule the world" mentality to the table without ever even understanding what FOSS is all about!
What is the answer?
There is no answer, only a general direction. Like a spooked herd of cattle Linux rushes first one way then another. There is no real leader, only a few big bulls that can "persuade" the rest of the herd to head in their direction. But the herd will always try to break one way or another. Will Linux ever become what Waldo and the OP envision? Sure, Mint is well along that path!!! Or will it retain the 1990's flavor of a geek OS that few understand? Yep! There are still distros for old dogs like Fred and me! Will it last?
Nothing on this earth ever lasts! When I joined this forum a couple years ago I posted in a thread where I thought Mint would be in 10 years. I said I felt that Linux, as we know it, would be dead in 10 years! I took so much flak for that comment!
But you know what? Here it is two years later, and we are already well along that road! Linux has changed, it changed while we were writing about it! Linux today is no longer the same beast it was even two years ago! And I do not mean that it simply evolved, but that the whole dynamic is shifting, changing. It is not all bad, but I do think Linux is giving up its pure heart and soul in the interest of commercialization.