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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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I’d say it’s already widely used and adopted wouldn’t you?

It seems lately I am being continually advised by various peers and colleagues, that Linux is not widely used and that it will never be fully adopted by the I.T. industry. Well someone here is either very ignorant or incapable of letting go of a concept and I’m not prepared to say whether it’s me or them.

I try to keep my eye on not only current trends in I.T. but also the ongoing industry standards, releases of new software for ALL operating systems that currently exist and previously existed, not to mention market share figures and software adoption press releases for all platforms as well. I have to say that there is most definitely a LOT of propaganda out there for various operating systems, Linux and Windows aren’t the only ones out there and neither are they the only ones putting out THEIR message and trying to ignore or put down the other. I try quite hard to distinguish what is propaganda and what is truthful articles while reading but it can be difficult.

Recently no matter where I look I’m finding articles written by people that I have no reason to believe are anything but impartial journalists, who are quite clearly stating facts and figures as well as self formed projections and opinions, with regard to Linux being adopted at a faster rate than I’ve ever seen before. Almost every day I read that another school or even school district, police department, regional council, global company, small company, charity or farmer and yes even his Collie, have adopted Linux or Open Source Software and that they have made a conscious and very public decision to do so. If I’m to believe that these stories are true then surely my advisors who say Linux just isn’t considered usable or worth the effort must be either very ignorant or just incapable of letting go of the “Microsoft Dream”.

But wait, another reliable, unbiased, impartial journalist has just written an article claiming that he thinks Windows latest server offering is the best thing he’s ever seen and that it’s going to crush the opposition of Linux, Unix, Solaris etc with one fell swoop. In which case surely I’m the one that’s being ignorant or just refusing to let go of my Linux ideals?

Well after you cut through all the bull thats out there from the journalists, and you’ve read through the forums and comments to posts just like this from Linux/Windows/Mac/Solaris etc advocates and you’ve tried REALLY hard to assess the situation as a whole and taken in everyones point of view, all the facts and figures that contradict themselves inside and outside, you come to realize that the old joke “98.5% of all statistics are made up, including this one” is actually less of a joke than it is an actual fact in itself. When it comes to choosing your operating system you have to decide for yourself what suits and it’s as simple as that.

Operating systems come down to personal choice, it really is that simple. Linux was always the underdog in years gone by, pushed to one side and not really considered to be useful for anything but web hosting and super computers, could only be used by uber-techies and rocket scientists. Well those days are past now, Linux is just as easy to use and set up for an average user (In some cases a LOT easier actually) than a Mac, Windows, Solaris, Unix or any other operating system you care to name.

Sure you can buy a Mac, open it up, and as long as you can type your own name and click a few buttons you’re greeted by that glorious Mac Music and a fantastic visual display to make you realize you’ve got something special, and with Windows, most people tend to buy it already installed on a computer and it’s much the same as buying a new Mac when you fire it up, just without the fanfare. With Linux you can buy it pre-installed as well now, not as many shops are selling it just yet as the community would ideally want but it’s really getting there, Dell, HP, Lenovo, just some of the big brands that are selling Linux pre-installed on their computers now.

So when it comes to pre-installed OS’s Linux is definitely a competitor these days and my personal belief is that it will continue to be just that, a competitor. I have no dreams of Linux crushing Apple or Microsoft, all I ask is that Linux gets given the recognition it deserves as what is now at the very least an equal and worthy opponent.

The area of Linux that really shines for me is it’s ability to boot up from a CD or USB key instead of insisting that it be installed on the very FIRST hard drive of a computer, install the majority of hardware in that CD or USB boot environment, with at the very least generic driver support, allowing you to use it without harming your computer, use the internet and play games etc WHILST installing it and because of all this it can be used to recover broken systems which natively are run by a completely different operating system that has become disabled somehow.

So to wrap this up do I think that Linux will really be widely used and fully adopted? Well no, I don’t think it will, it already is, when the two biggest retailers of pre-installed computers (Dell and HP) are releasing it pre-loaded and constantly announcing growth of sales in that area each year and the majority of the stock markets around the world are running it, NASA is running it and schools are starting to teach with it, I’d say it’s already widely used and adopted wouldn’t you? Besides that, how would you fancy watching Disney Pixars films without special effects? Or seeing action movies with smaller explosions, how about all you sci-fi fans missing out on all the really cool effects? Yup that’s right, the majority of all films made today are using Linux for their special effects generation. Go checkout LinuxMovies.org for more of an idea.

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