Linux Distros That Could Take The Lead Soon

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Linux and Unix - Thursday, November 15th, 2007

After more than 15 years of Linux development, the last couple of years have seen an explosive spectrum of progress in conquering the desktop. It is as if the world is suddenly waking up and discovering Linux. Ubuntu has a place in the history books already as the distro that pushed to make this happen, taking the old Linux and wrapping it up into a user-friendly desktop system. On the business front, Novell SuSE and Red Hat have traditionally dominated.

But open source is about free choice and fair competition, so there’s never a time when the lead penguins can rest easy. Lately a whole rash of distros have been coming out of the woodwork, building on the previous progress. Here’s my picks for the distros showing the greatest potential to take the next crown for most successful Linux distro.

gOS – The blogosphere reaction is pretty much summed up here. Yes, it came out of nowhere, all right. gOS is based on Ubuntu, but it’s kind of a fork, with an Enlightenment desktop instead of Gnome and optimized to run on lighter hardware, with a close integration with Google’s desktop utilities. The reviews on it have made it sound too good to be true. And it was picked as the distro for Walmart‘s cheap new Linux PC… which has sold out – completely! You can’t ask for a better success story than that for a 1.0 release.

Unbreakable Linux – This is the Red Hat derivative that was introduced by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison last year. Reviews on Unbreakable have basically said that you can hardly tell the two apart. And Larry Ellison has made it clear that he intends to use it to compete with Red Hat. Say what you will about Larry – he’s got a loud mouth – but he gets things done. His company has been a giant in the industry for a quarter of a century. If anybody has the muscle to give Red Hat a close chase, it’s him.

MandrivaMandriva has been around for a long time – it is derived from the old Mandrake Linux, which was practically there at the beginning. So what’s so special about it now? Have you tried the latest disks? Mandriva 2008 Live CD has been getting some great reviews out there, and that’s just the free one. They’ve been expanding into the enterprise market and growing some clout there. Every year, they put on another coat of polish. They’ve actually been hanging out in at least the top five for a number of years now. Seriously, from what I’ve seen of the live CD, there’s no reason it couldn’t overtake Ubuntu.

CentOS – Even Larry Ellison can’t claim exclusive rights to making a Red Hat-based OS. CentOS, like Fedora, is a free version of Red Hat. CentOS is dogging Red Hat so closely that Slashdot recently asked if it was hurting Red Hat’s business. CentOS has enjoyed some steady popularity for a while, seen as more of a replacement for the free Red Hat than Fedora is.

VectorLinux – This one, too, has been around for a while. But VectorLinux warrants a mention because it has steadily stayed in the top ten for a while, now. The distro is based on Slackware (itself a steady fixture), and shares the Ubuntu philosophy of providing a small, newbie-friendly system which the user can then customize to taste. It is also a well-polished distro. It isn’t the strongest contender, but it is a contender.

A FINAL NOTE: I’m deliberately leaving out:

  • (1) Ubuntu cousins. Kubuntu and Fluxbuntu, et al. There just isn’t enough variation between them all yet to warrant considering them different distros.
  • (2) Classic hardcore distros. Gentoo and Slackware are indeed still heavy players in the distro market, but both of them are for the hard core geek. Not likely to take over the market any time soon. Which is refreshing; some user bases prefer to remain a hidden secret, rather than try to contend for the number one spot.
  • (3) Distros that can’t play nice in the Linux culture. For one thing, when you act like a jerk, people stop liking you. So if a distro (a) has to be reprimanded for not complying with the GPL, (b) makes a sell-out deal with Microsoft, or (c) tries to use dirty tactics and cheats to artificially inflate their stats and tries to get ahead by bad-mouthing every other distro but them, I’m not considering them in this list. That’s less my decision than that that’s the way the user-base seems to be drifting, with the exception of Novell SuSE, which was already a major company before their Microsoft deal.

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7 Responses to “Linux Distros That Could Take The Lead Soon”

  1. colonel crayon Says:

    How about Zenwalk and Arch? Zenwalk is a distro that works “out-of-the-box”, and is blazing fast. Meanwhile, Arch is fast becoming a top distro for more experienced users due to its lightweight design.

  2. Harry Says:

    Interesting read. I have used and still use Gentoo and Mandriva. The weird thing is I use them for managing Sun Solaris servers. I really lost the faith with Red Hat when the split to Fedora and Red Hat occured.
    I also agree that any “(fill in the blank)buntu” is alright , but not awe inspiring in diversity.
    I will have have to try now the “gOS” and “Unbreakable”. Since I work in software Test Bed, I am always looking for viable alternatives for my users as an alternative OS for workstations and servers.

    Thanks for some new ideas.

  3. sgunhouse Says:

    According to Distrowatch, PCLinuxOS and a couple of its derivatives should be in that list. Not that I’ve actually tried it, mind you, but if I were considering giving up on Mandriva they’d be on my list.

  4. rm42 Says:

    I think you overlooked PCLinuxOS. It’s quality is outstanding and the user base is quite friendly. The PCLinuxOS forums are a great place to get help. See my review of their MiniMe version for example:

  5. ken Says:

    How did PCLinuxOS not get a mention. This distro has been at the top of the Distrowatch hit list for quite some time now. It is incredibly stable due to the core philosophy of the devs (It’s ready when it’s ready), it is amazingly newbie-friendly, and unlike Ubuntu, it actually does “just work”.

    I am amazed that PCLinuxOS was overlooked.

  6. Justin Says:

    I think the author is holding a grudge against PCLinuxOS. Notice that he doesn’t mention it directly (conspicuously), but in the final note he says that he deliberately left out a distro that “tries to use dirty tactics and cheats to artificially inflate their stats”. I think he is referring to PCLinuxOS because it has been ranked so high in distrowatch for so long and because I have heard accusations to that effect from people who begrudge that ranking. The fact is that there is no evidence of foul play. The distrowatch maintainers have stated so several times after investigating their logs for evidence of such a thing. If I am right, it is too bad. PCLinuxOS more than deserves its place at distrowatch.

  7. ZING Says:

    Being part of the marketing/advertising team of PCLinuxOS I truly believe PCLinxOS will/is the next big Linux Distro. – Get it, Got it, Good!

    Oh yea… I assure you, “the readers”, if you have not tried PCLinuxOS, “please go to and download it” that you are missing out on possibly the best computing experience you have never had. Try it and you WILL be amazed!

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