From the days of Red Hat 7 till now I have seen many people (windows users) try Linux. But most of them go back to Windows after time of playing around. Why?
Hang on. Before digging why people go back to windows, let's see why anybody looks for an alternative operating system such as Linux or BSD. Is it for the reason that windows is not free? Is it for the reason that Windows is closed-source? Or is it for the reason that Windows is prone to viruses and malware?
Here in India, maximum people are not worried about the price-tag attached with Windows. Because in many cases the PC comes preinstalled, and if not, installing a pirated copy of XP is not that difficult. You would be surprised that most people give a damn to software-piracy. Even many people think that cost of Windows XP is just Rs. 50 (that around 1$ - the approx. price of Windows XP in most parts of India). For them Windows XP costs the same amount as a PCLinuxOS or Mepis disk. Now on to the nature of operating system - they don't care whether it's open-source or closed source as long as it works.
Next is the issue of viruses, spyware and malware. According to me it's the only reason that attracts many people to linux, in India. They hear people talk - linux is very secure.
Then why do they quit? The reason is they expect exact counterparts of Windows application software in Linux. For example, a lay-user after switching to linux seeks for a MS Office alternative in Linux and hits at OpenOffice. Unfortunately he/she doesn't get the same productivity from it. OpenOffice is not that polished, fast or user-friendly as MS Office. OpenOffice is growing feature-wise, but every release leaves makes some edges rough. I have never seen a decent grammar checker in it. Of course, OpenOffice is free, but then, most users also don't pay for MS Office. Its pirated copy comes for around Rs. 50. There are many programs such as photoshop, corel, 3D designing and animation software, audio/video editing software, etc. that run on windows, and they are not ported to linux. Given the present condition of fragmented linux community, they probably will never be ported.
For many users viruses and malware are less annoying than substandard application software that's why windows is leading on the desktop.
We all know linux kernel is more advanced and way better than windows. Linux Gui (KDE and GNOME) has also come a long way to be as good as or better than explorer (in windows) and aqua (in mac). Driver support has also improved a lot. But everything is lost due to lack of proper application software.
PS: This post is about why linux is unable to make a mark on desktop. I know, Linux is the king on servers.