I think 2005 is truly going to be the year of the Linux desktop. The past 2 years have been amazing as well, and the momentum has been slowly building up. But Linux on the desktop is just not there yet. IMHO this year things will take off in a much bigger way and Linux would make a significant dent in the desktop market.
Why do I say all of this? Well first of all, a lot of really cool and really great stuff is coming to maturity at about the same time. There’s GNOME. There’s KDE. There’s Firefox and Thunderbird. There’s Evolution. There’s a lot of eye-candy in all of these — themes, desklets, icons, affects, plugins — you name it, they got it. Then there’s OpenOffice, KOffice, Abiword, Gnumeric, Gnucash, KMymoney2 — a plethora of package essential to the desktop users.
Lets not forget DTP and graphics packages — with Gimp, Inkscape and Scribus leading the way (sorry if thats a bit biased I know there’s Sodipodi, Passepartout etc etc). There are some excellent content management packages like Drupal and WordPress.
Hardware discovery and support is better than ever. Vendors and manufacturers are becoming increasing aware of the need to natively support their hardware on Linux (Intel, NVidia are good examples. I wish ATI were smarter). Tremendous efforts are being made to make installation of a new Linux desktop system smooth and non-intrusive — the Ubuntu and Debian installers being a good example.
Commercial derivatives of Linux distributions are taking off (Xandros, Linspire). Laptops with Linux pre-installed are not a rarity anymore — even Walmart has them now! Big players like Sun and Novell are taking an interested in the Linux desktop market. Features such as hibernate on laptops have not been perfected yet, but there’s very good progress on that front as well.
More than anything else, I think the FOSS developers themselves have realized that good UI and some eye-candy go a long way in making a software acceptable to the masses. Intentionally making the software ‘geeky’ or hard-to-use is no longer the modus-operandi (I’m not sure it ever was, maybe it was just that people never thought of doing otherwise).
There are a host of other reasons; but the bottomline is that Linux on the desktop is ready to fly (almost!)