Is Apple Killing Linux on the Desktop?
January 11, 2008 1 Comment
It looks like some think that OS X may be “killing” Linux on the desktop. I’m not sure that’s the case, but it’s an interesting point to explore. It’s true that Apple has a much higher percentage of desktop users than Linux does. Even if Linux grew at a faster rate in the time period given, it was off a much smaller base (and is still under 1-3% by most accounts). In most cases though, I don’t think you can definitively say that if a user didn’t go with OS X that they would have gone with Linux. Apple does a lot of things really good. Marketing is certainly one of them, but they do create slick machines that are very appealing. The fact that most traditional UNIX tools work with OS X is huge. I do think the “they just work” part is a bit overblown, but it’s certainly a better out of the box experience than Linux. That being said, many of the things that make that out of the box experience possible are the reasons some people switch to Linux. You want OS X, you have to purchase an Apple. The lock in involved with the Apple experience is actually worse than with Microsoft. So if it’s a UNIX-like OS with a shiny GUI that you’re looking for, OS X may indeed be what you want. If freedom is what you’re looking for, Apple is probably not for you.
Don’t take this to mean that I don’t like Apple. I think they are doing some really cool things. They are at times Open Source friendly and are creating real choice in the mass OS market. I think people are getting increasingly frustrated with Apple policies and practices though. The evidence isn’t too difficult to find. Apple really has little incentive to have pro-customer policies. If you want an iPod, an iPhone or OS X you don’t have any choice. If you want Linux, you can get hardware from any vendor you’d like. In the end, however, I’d still contend that more OS X sales are good for Linux… not bad. It gets people used to not using Windows. It introduces them to a UNIX-based OS. It opens doors that would be hard for Linux to open. Once the Windows monopoly is broken, it will be easy for all other operating systems to get a fair look. I welcome that day.