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Sometimes, I wish the Linux brand would concentrate on just a handful of enterprises say, three operating systems and a couple of software developing projects at any one time, and request that open-source OS developers and software writers concentrate on the five chosen enterprises.
As things are, what is happening is that a number of projects are being commenced globally which naturally means each will be at a particular stage of development more or less simultaneously, with others being abandoned or at best, not continually worked on with regards to upgrading and capability expansion, etc.
It is very confusing for a newbie to have to trawl through the best options in order to find as near as possible, the most comprehensive and thus versatile Operating System to date. Later one, can switch over and buy alternative Linux brand operating systems as they, in turn, become more complete in terms of capability and versatility.
Thankfully, there are forum members aboard who are well versed in which systems are most developed and user-friendly for beginners.
Linux is not a brand, and most people don't buy linux, I know I sure haven't. Also, people are free to make as many distributions as they want, thats the nature of free software
I've paid for mine for years! More time than one should spend on anything. My time is $$.
I agree that there are many distributions but not all are complete. Some are just derivatives while others are true Linux distributions. Look at the 'Linux Distro Timeline'. Look at the 'forks' for Slackware, Debian, etc.
Newbies can get confused easily. That's why I suggest they try a LiveCD first. That way nothing is lost other than the time of the download and a possible coaster.
I recommend live CDs to people new to Linux here also. There's usually something sitting on the shelf in my office that people can borrow, try and then ask questions about.
As to limiting the number of distros available - I don't see the point. They're so easy to get and try, it's as likely as saying there should be a limited number of car makes/models or <insert your favourite comparison here>. Once people get used to the features that affect them, suddenly there's not so many confusing choices.
I think the multitude of distros is both a gift and a curse. Its good because we have choice and are not tied down to specific vendors, but also bad in that this can be confusing to people who are new to Linux. Because of the free nature of Linux, you cannot really stop people from creating new distros or ask them to focus on certain projects (unless you are paying them) because its up to the developers to choose which projects they want to work on.