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Linux and Apple are both increasing their market share for desktops

I’ve just been reading an article by one of my favourite columnists/bloggers – http://blogs.computerworld.com/14749/shh_hp_sneaks_linux_in_on_new_laptops – now this guy isn’t one of my favorites because of what he writes, what he writes about or even how he writes it, no, he’s one of my favorites because of the comments that almost ALWAYS follow his articles.

One thing you can always count on with SJVN is that he will have a whole host of Microsoft Zealots, Linux Zealots, and Apple Zealots reading his article and then feeling the uncontrollable urge to comment, and not necessarily on his article. The first few posts are usually a Microsoft Zealot slamming him for something completely irrelevant or stringing together a whole host of his previous posts where THEIR interpretation of them, leads THEM to believe that he’s full of **** or inaccurate, or some Linux Zealots starting the flame-fest by commenting on how brilliant he is or how brilliant the thing he’s writing about is, which is then of course swiftly followed by the above mentioned Microsoft Zealots, trashing the Linux Zealots posts.

The more interesting and amusing reading comes around page 2 of the comments, where all the fanatics on all sides come out of the woodwork, usually Linux fanatics saying how this is the year of the desktop and buying Microsoft will kill babies, Microsoft fanatics saying Linux is a dead operating system, Apple fanatics claiming that they’re the equivalent of a Prius driver “Superior intellect and advanced thinking”, and the flaming goes back and forth back and forth, until SJVNs article has become completely irrelevant to the comments which follow it.

Anyone who has read or does read any more of this particular blog, will know that I’m neither a zealot or a fanboy of anything, but that I do lean towards Open Source and Linux more than Microsoft or Apple. I do want to see Linux popularity increase to the point that I can walk into my local electronics store and find Linux Laptops and Desktops sat next to the exclusive and over-priced Apple stand and the row of Windows machines.

I’m a realist however, I don’t think that Linux will conquer the world, I don’t believe that Windows has no place in the world and I certainly don’t believe that Apples are terrible either, although I do joke around with the word Crapple when talking about them :D.

Every single comment thread following SJVNs articles always leaves me feeling the same way, disappointed that for the most part the I.T. world is split up into different “factions”, I’m an I.T. engineer, that means I do everything, Linux, BSD, Crapple, Microsoft, Development on all platforms and Web, Networking etc etc etc and I recognise that there genuinely is a place in this world for everything we’ve already got out there, and more besides.

I constantly read about how this will be the year of the Linux desktop, that Crapples will take over the world and that Microsoft Windows 7 will be a revolutionary operating system like no one has ever seen before, it’ll change the way we all see them (Unlikely I think) and that cloud computing is the way forward so desktops won’t matter anyway. The fact is, one of the comments that followed the particular article I linked to above, made an awful lot of sense and DID relate a lot to SJVNs actual article. It basically compares Linux, Microsoft and Apple’s marketing strategies, making light of Apples new App Store for the iPhone and it’s success etc.

Apple manufacture their own machines, so they don’t rely on OEMs to force third party software developers to make applications to run on Mac OS, Linux however doesn’t have that power, what is required for Linux to truly take off and be as big or bigger than Apple and Windows is for an OEM, a big one like HP, IBM or Dell to talk to these third party developers like Adobe and Intuit, and make the decision that they are going to ship a third of all their OEM machines with a Linux flavor on next year, with a large OEM backing Linux to that extent, does anyone really think Adobe would continue it’s refusal to make it’s applications for Linux? This is what I believe SJVN was actually getting at in his article, in his own cynical way he’s making the point that most of the OEMs out there are now shipping Linux one way or another, as the main OS or as Splashtop machines with Windows, if they have enough faith in Linux to do this, then surely someone there must have the balls to stand up and say, screw it, we’re going to ship a third of our machines with Linux on, we’re going to support it and we’re going to talk to the third party developers about making their apps available on Linux.

In summary I think SJVN could be a little clearer in his articles, about what exactly he’s getting at, but I think he likes watching the flame wars that follow to be honest. OEMs like Dell and HP need to realise that if they push Linux and support Linux, they’ll actually make more profit, they don’t need to sell the machines any cheaper than the Windows machines, remember MOST people out there don’t know anything more about computers than, the keyboard puts letters on the screen and the mouse moves the pointy thing, if they pick a flavor like Ubuntu or SUSE then they still have a partner to offer OS support in place of MS, their machines will appear to be of better quality because they will run smarter, faster and for longer without reloads and that means less warranty claims, less complaints, more brand loyalty when their machine performs so well and what’s more they’d be the first to bring Linux into mainstream desktop distribution, making them super heros to all the existing Linux and Open Source community, which is a LOT bigger than people think when they look at statistics.

If you look at the population of New Zealand (Just over 4 Million) and you take the 1% Desktop Market Share statistic, then you get a figure of 40,000 people, that’s more people than live in my town by the way, then let’s analyze the fact that these 4 Million people, be they at work or at school, will most LIKELY be using Windows or Macs at that location and have a machine at home as well, which could be anything. Without going into the rocket science that is statistic making (Half of which is bull**** anyway) it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if the Microsoft and Apple machines being used at work are taken into the statistical information which concludes a 1% market share for desktops, then the market share statistic is a) inaccurate and b) doesn’t represent personal choice in any way shape or form. Let’s not even go into the number of people who buy a machine from an electrical store with Windows loaded on it (Which immediately goes in the statistics) and then load it with something else, BSD, Linux, Solaris (Which does not go into the statistics), nor shall we look at the people like myself and my partner who purchase computer parts, then build the machines ourselves and load whatever operating system we choose onto it (Which also does not go into the statistics), our house for example has 3 custom built desktops, all running a flavor of Linux, only one has a Windows dual boot, then two Laptops, a Dell and an HP, one with Windows/Linux dual boot and one running exclusively Linux, oh and the people out there who buy Macs, then load Linux or Windows dual boots, in short, statistics don’t mean **** when it comes to real numbers of people using operating systems, it doesn’t in fact even give any kind of reliable indication to any of the operating systems popularity at all.

So what are we to conclude from all this then? Well I personally think that Microsoft Windows 7 is going to be better than Vista, but not enough to be a world changing OS, I think that Linux and it’s popularity will continue to grow and eventually will gain full support from OEMs, boosting even it’s official statistics to something nearer to MS and Apple, and I believe that Apple will grow much much bigger in popularity, to the point that it too is a direct comparison statistically to MS, at which point the hackers of the world who already admit it’s easier to break Apple than it is to break MS, will start to write a LOT more viruses for Apples, making a few people I know swallow their Prius-like attitude and feel very egg-faced about comments they’ve made in the past about running an Apple network because it’s Virus free without Anti-Virus. Do I think MS will disappear? No I don’t, I think they’ll lose some ground and pick themselves up from a new angle, most likely providing more niche software than blanket. Do I think Apple will take over the world? No, I think they’ll get close and then fall down on their lack of OS security and preparedness for their sudden boost in popularity for both users and hackers. Do I think next year will be the year of the Linux desktop? No, I don’t think that year will ever come in the sense that it is usually referred to, I do however think the next few years will bring a big shift in the market shares and popularities of ALL the mainstream OS’s out there, I do think that Linux will become a big player in the desktop market and I do think that lots of people already making money on Linux will start to make a hell of a lot more.


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