The Desktop is to be seen as the root of the filesystem by non-technical users. This is the intention: one builds one's files and directories up from it.
But it is not, and cannot be; for non-technical users do not want technical things like system application on their desktop. Thus we create a false layer to shield the user from details.
Finding that people insisted on having their desktop, most Linux developers felt they had to follow Microsoft and Apple. But it was to follow, catch up, and become the leaders, that they had tasked themselves.
No-one denies that some gui apps, only available on MS-Windows, are key drawcards to the platform. Unless one can convince a person to use a free alternative for the sake of open source, one must accept that people who use these useful gui apps have no reason to switch.
And the developers of the useful gui apps have no reason to port.
But some of us do now see the Linux Desktop as a thing of the past. Or, it is there simply for people who are curious about what an operating system is. I can't tell you! Install Linux!
But you're going to have to choose a distribution for yourself. I have my preference, but that is just a matter of my past.
They're all competing, as much as free stuff can compete. If you really don't know where to start, I will be glad to answer you, but mind that I will give you a list, and the list will not be in any order of preference. Once you have made your choice, you are going to have to go through with it. Installing Linux is about you learning it; about you suiting yourself to it. Any place is just about as good as any other, to start.
The word desktop, then, does seem an awfully suitable one, for the computer itself; whether it is portable or not. For, who's desktop proper does not have one?