Let me preface this by saying I’m not a highly experienced Linux user; although I have done a fair amount of computer programming both professionally and privately. I have wanted to switch to a distro for my main desktop for some time; but haven’t gotten past its limitations; so I’m sticking with Win7 until M$ intentionally cripples it by denying root certificates, thereby disabling HTTPS sites, like they did XP.
Well, there’s the Windows OSs. I don’t think they would have been as popular, if all desktops, apps, and many settings had to be installed or entered on the command line. Debian, Mint and Ubuntu, some of the more popular Linux distros have graphical ones. It seems odd to ask for such readily available evidence.
Hmmm. You sound as if spyware would be a selling point, from this. I know there are examples of where users don’t mind sending in anonymized usage statistics, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue the opposite, and find users that would prefer, e.g. all their Chrome URLs to be sent to Google, if e.g. Google could avoid dangerous websites without doing so instead. I’ll agree that e.g. the many users of Chrome, and oblivious users of Win10 don’t care; but their preferring it is another matter.
There are many privacy-aware versions of softs out there; demonstrating that a small, but still sizeable minority care about such matters. There are many guides how to disable Win10 telemetry, and many users have declined to update to Win10, but stayed with Win7 for this very reason. There are privacy-oriented versions of Linux. There are versions of Chromium which have been de-Googlized (unGoogled chromium, Bromite, Brave, Iron Browser, Cliqz, Epic, Iridium) and of Firefox (Palemoon, Basilisk and TorBrowser). There are probably many more this misses. An option to simply ignore non-free software doesn’t come close.
Getting back to the idea of examples of graphic installers, I’m not well-versed in many of the distros out there; so don’t take these as necessarily the best examples. I rather like the Debian advanced graphical setup. It lets me make a lot of technical choices I already know about, without having to spend weeks upon weeks trolling the wiki, Stack Overflow-like sites, blogs, repositories, etc., to find them. I’d also suggest something like XP’s add/remove Windows components, except in the installer.
I also recognize many, perhaps most users, aren’t very computer literate, and want things to just work. Many would trade their privacy for the security of Chromium with automatic updates. It’s a package deal with Google. Some would like Chromium and FF to block what Google and Mozilla consider scam, phishing and unsafe sites. Some want their media players to go out and automatically download album artwork, and are happy to allow all their apps to report usage statistics.
I’ve been using computers since my parents bought me my first Apple II+. I saw, e.g. a lot of oversimplified, underpowered apps pandering to the lowest common denominator, such as PFS Write, PFS File, Harvard Graphics, WordStar (not really its fault). I was frustrated with such software, but found welcome relief with M$ Office, originally written for Macs. If memory serves, early versions had two menu systems: a simple one and an advanced one. When users outgrew the simple, on-the-toolbar usage for these products, it was an easy matter to get to the more advanced stuff under the hood. This combination of an intuitive, simple GUI, with advanced options for the power users, became real game changers (then they introduced ribbons, got rid of the chart wizard, and added spyware).
I envision a graphic installer that has what all or almost all in Linux lack: one that ASKS you if you really want all that bloatware on there. Thus, instead of the options being “Plasma Desktop” or “Gnome Desktop” which surreptitiously install Libre Office and a ton of other software you may or may not want, it would give you choices. After all, you may want a different media player, a different audio editor, OnlyOffice instead of LibreOffice, etc. Typically, if you try to uninstall a single piece of this bloatware, it tries to uninstall the entire desktop, ALL of the desktop’s applications, and drops you into the command prompt! This is insipid! It’s ridiculous!!! Windows users never used to have to put up with such high-handed tactics, and even Win10, which contains a considerable amount of bloatware, doesn’t make many presumptions about office suites, audio editors, internet clients (with the exception of Edge), etc.
I envision an installation graphics procedure that would 1) give you a choice of what desktop manager to use: whether KDE Plasma, Gnome, QTLXE, etc. 2) to accept the default software, office suite, internet software, etc. that either comes with the desktop, or can be added on en masse or 3) lets you choose a minimal install like Debian advanced graphical (since you can just ask it to install basic “Tools” for you, 4) gives you advanced HD formatting and other options, for advanced users, as in the Debian advanced Graphical Setup (although this could probably be simplified a bit), 5) possibly, although it would be harder to maintain, give the user granularity on a program-by-program basis (which isn’t involved in settings) 6) let you choose if you’d like all software installed with all telemetry disabled or not (to the greatest extent practical, although it’s difficult to catch all of them in the repos).
In short, what I’d like to see (even if it doesn’t become the majority distro and even OS ultimately) is first: a well-built operating system, developed similar to the office apps when they were originally developed for the Mac, with a simple GUI on the surface, for novices, but not only good computer science, but the features businesses need under the hood. The programming team should listen to users, and there should be a real beta program. That is probably one thing M$ always had on its rivals: it tended to run almost without the bugs that plagued rivals. First, however, developers should develop what they and the directors know would be a great OS. Second, the marketing shouldn’t think in terms of “we need to develop metro-style apps, since M$ does.” The programmers shouldn’t be directed by the marketers, because users don’t always see the software of the future they wind up liking, although they should listen. Instead, you might think in terms of unconventional marketing: holding meet-ups, giving talks, symposia on how NixOS can benefit various users, paying money to advertise, good learning materials on YouTube, user focus groups, etc. Even if it’s a free OS, and doesn’t reflect the ubiquitous modern agenda of most commercial softs: lower the price, but the consumer pays in terms of sale of personal data, there can be alternative ways to raise money: Patreon and alternatives, and sale of consulting, such that if someone wants a change in the OS, or a package ported most users don’t care about, you can sell consulting services. A donation page might help, too. These could be marketing aspects of NixOS. Moneys raised could be used not just for ads, but for bounties, to add certain features to the OS.
Since I’m on a roll, and on a rant, I’ll continue with why I don’t think Linux holds up to Windows yet (or why it didn’t used to, in two cases):
It lacks asking you what software you want installed, as above: not only what programs, but what features of programs
Things solved by Nix, such as where you want your softs installed, coexistence of different versions of the same library in use by different apps, and therefore an end to dependency hell.
Games, which Steam goes a long way to bringing serious games to Linux
A real, dynamic swap-file: Someone mentioned to me that the XP swap-file never shrank, and I can’t say for sure, but I am pretty sure I’ve seen it shrink under Win7. Linux has the dphys-swapfile, but that only adjusts the swapfile size if RAM changes. Linux behaves extremely badly when it runs out of swapfile space. It typically goes completely unresponsive with excessive HD grinding when it runs out of swapfile space. By contrast, Windows lets you set the min and max swapfile sizes for each drive, and it will size them appropriately. When it runs out of swapfile space, apps start failing, but the Explorer will respond to Ctrl-Alt-Del a lot faster than Linux in a similar situation. Therefore, a true dynamic swapfile is more important in Linux. As HD usage grows, and memory demands for apps change, Windows adjusts on-the-fly. Linux can’t. You must expand your swapfile once you get control of your system again (usually by a dangerous power-off), manually.
A nice graphical installer (in the case of NixOS and Arch) that works well for novices and experts or even just the fairly adept, like myself. With M$ intentionally breaking HTTPS on XP, and it is probably a matter of time for Win7, and a lot of users concerned about spyware (i.e. telemetry) as well as bloatware in Win10, it seems that Linux has a chance to dramatically increase market share. (I also heard a user complaining that with Automatic Updates on in Win10, every time he got it working right, a new update would come down and break it. M$ doesn’t make it easy to turn off automatic updates, and they were considering a policy that if ALL automatic updates weren’t accepted, NONE should be available - which they may have ultimately rejected.)
I do hope Linux will come into its own soon. While there are some advances in M$ Office, such as cloud computing and new chart types, the lack of privacy in commercial clouds, telemetry, ribbons, and no chart creation Wizard, for starters, and the bloatware of Win10 suggest they are going downhill in important ways. Many people disable Cortana for privacy reasons, and because of high CPU usage. The ability to install Ubuntu in Win10 is a significant, and important exception. Firefox has become a clone of Chrome, with a hamburger menu, but with an optional search bar, but less security and stability. I think there is ample opportunity to develop a great OS that holds up to the expectations of users, such as Chromebook OS, Andriod, etc.; but the OS must be up to the task.