Consider that the global community is already beginning to rally behind standard document formats. In addition, as browsers like Firefox gain more market share, users are less tolerant of Internet Explorer-only web sites. However, the transition is slow and will continue to be a slow one. Most people will switch away from Windows only when dollars are on the line.
The Perfect Generic Client
In the long run, Linux makes the perfect generic client. It is the hub of free software development, which makes it the focal point for generic, open computing. As people continue to use Linux as the basis for cell phones, DVRs (such as TiVo and Dish Network), routers, and other dedicated systems, it is becoming ubiquitous on just about every platform but the PC. This only makes it more likely to dominate the PC in the future.
The more Linux becomes the de-facto standard platform for software development of any kind, the more appealing it becomes as the platform for personal computing. Any overlap between appliances and PCs saves duplication of effort. The vast repository of free software available for the asking makes Linux even more appealing as the basis for development.
Many of the duties Linux must perform on a PC it already performs on appliances like cell phones. We may never see the era of $100 network computers, but network computing is advancing, nevertheless, as is evidenced by the increasing reliance on web-based email and the appearance of network applications like Google Docs. We owe thanks to AJAX and Java for the rich client features now available through your PC and/or cell phone browser.
The more we depend on this type of computing, the more invisible operating systems will become. Most people don’t know or care what OS runs their cell phone. We may always care more about what we run on our PC, but the distinction between the two will gradually blur. As it does, Linux should be the best choice, because it is already prevalent on so many devices.