When Win98 was the most popular desktop OS, Linux users everywhere realized the general public thought that computer crashes and frequent reboots were a normal, inherent part of operating a computer. They were not, and Linux proved that, but there is/was widespread ignorance about these things and the general public continued to buy Windows
When windows 98 was the most popular Desktop OS, it was also the best desktop OS that would run on commodity hardware. Remember, The era of Win 98 was 1998 to 2000, at which point the state of the art Linux Distro was Red Hat 6, which had little or no support for a staggering amount of hardware. Want to use a win modem, or a webcam, or a USB printer? Best stick with win 98 then. Sure, Red Hat never crashed, but what use was that if my 56k modem didn't work?
Obviously things are better now, but don't go looking back with rose tinted glasses. The first Linux distro I ever used was Slackware 3.something, back in the mid-nineties, so I was perfectly aware that there were better alternatives out there, but I didn't switch to a Linux desktop completely till Red Hat 9, because there was always some show stopper of a problem with my hardware.