I have been using various Linux distributions over the years. Linux has made tremendous improvements, especially on laptops. Yes, it still requires you to know a couple of tricks, lacks some “popular” applications and is not always well supported by corporations. But once you get to a stable install (easy nowadays), you discover the easy system updates and tons of free software readily available for install. Add a great terminal and scripting capabilities and you get an efficient and powerful desktop. Anyway a monopoly is the worst that can happen in any industry: if you use Windows, give Linux a try, at least on your home pc.
I started using Linux with Mandrake & Debian, then switched to Gentoo for a while. It is great to learn the bare bones of Gnu/Linux but compiling everything quickly becomes a burden. I switched to Ubuntu which goal is to make Linux user-friendly. And it works! It is easy to set-up and use, even though it uses the most recent software. I also use Fedora Core for a server, no complains.
I think the future of Linux is bright: It retains its powerful roots but becomes user-friendly and pleasant to look at. With the backing of more and more corporations, better integration of Microsoft .NET (Mono) and Java (now that it is open-source), it can become a real contender to Windows.Please see the sidebar for other sub pages.