Linux gaming just had another Icarus moment, but all is not lost

ubuntu icarusComputer gaming isn’t a cheap hobby. You can buy $300 consoles, but you subsidize them with $60 games. You can buy cheap games on Steam, but you need expensive Intel CPUs, nVidia GPUs, and a Windows license if you want the full experience. If you have several children, this gets very pricey very quickly.

For the past few years, many parents I know have let their children game on cheap tablets. However, mobile game makers have responded by turning their games into open-ended casinos peddled by walled garden stores. This too becomes expensive when junior starts betting real money on digital items.

There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Ubuntu was, until this week, hard at work bringing their popular Linux distribution to phones and tablets. This, taken with the development of the powerful new open-source Vulcan API and decent chips from AMD, threatened to strike a round of blows against the WinVidIntel lock on PC gaming. Imagine a powerful ARM tablet or mini computer running Ubuntu and decent Linux ports of cheap, popular, pay-once PC games.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen now … at least not yet. Ubuntu has given up trying to make Ubuntu work on a form factor dominated by manufacturers who jealously guard their integrated software stores on their devices.

Ubuntu has also given up trying to convince a Linux development community full of cantankerous graybeards that trying to recreate the ultimate Windows XP desktop is no longer the primary goal of moving Linux into the future. Don’t get me wrong. I love Linux Mint. But I’m a dying breed of mouse/keyboard user. The future of computer gaming and productivity is largely going to happen on small form factor hardware with touch screen interface. The death of Ubuntu Unity is a blow to that future.

Linux has always been a chicken/egg problem. Until Ubuntu and Red Hat came along, it was a support and user interface nightmare with constant niggling problems. But there was demand in the corporate space for a free, open source operating system that could break the Windows lock. The future of touchscreen Linux likely won’t blossom until those same corporate forces demand a break of the Google/Apple lock. Once chip makers realize that they don’t need Google and Apple’s software to make their products sell, you will see them more readily cooperate with Ubuntu (or another distro) to get Linux hardware drivers working.

Unfortunately, that will all happen about the time that my grandchildren are all plugged into some proprietary virtual reality interface.

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