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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 didn’t think Adobe would ever release Creative Suite natively for Linux

And the fact is they still might never do it. But, and believe me this is a big BUT, through the course of something completely different and irrelevant, I had the ear of a Senior Engineering Manager in the Installation, Deployment and Licensing department at Adobe the other day, so I asked the question, not surprisingly his response was that there didn’t appear to be any real requirement for Adobe CS products to be released on Linux natively and so with that in mind it would probably never happen. I replied to his email politely, but with somewhat of a rant about why there was a business requirement for CS to be released on Linux natively, expecting it to be completely ignored, I couldn’t resist while I had his ear though of course.

Senior engineering manager agrees with comments

The reply I got to my Linux rant was rather surprising indeed and even more pleasing, it basically said, “I read through the Linux rant and I agree with a lot of what you said, so I’ve passed it on to our business team”.

Could this mean I’ve made some headway? Or could he just be blowing smoke up my ……. Well I’d like to think of course that I made some sense in my little rant, I’d also more importantly like to think it’ll make some sense to the business team as well. I’m not sat at the machine I wrote the email on at the moment so I can’t simply copy n paste, however the points I made have been on my mind for some time, so I’ll try to summarize them here for you, let me know if you think they make sense or not and if you think the business team will just ignore it, or take heed and actually make a move eventually. I can’t see my little rant being the reason that Adobe suddenly announces it’s going to bring out CS on Linux, but I’d like to think the rant helped if it happens.

Designers are free spirited

And that tends to lead to them wanting to be different from the norm, hence a lot of designers using Macs instead of PCs. I know many designers, including our very own Gremlette, who have dual boot systems with XP and Linux on the same machine, unfortunately the requirement within a designers job to use Adobe products, not just Photoshop and Illustrator which can occasionally be by-passed with GIMP and Inkscape (Although not always as those products are not quite perfect and are meant as an alternative not clones) but things like In-Design and Acrobat Professional which don’t really have any comparitive or competetive products available freely or in fact for Linux at all really, keeps these designers like Gremlette tied to Windows. Given a choice of Linux or Windows XP if both could run Adobe CS4, I know Gremlette would choose the Linux machine and I know many more designers too who would switch from both Mac OSX and Windows to Linux as well.

Microsoft share prices are low, if Windows 7 fails like Vista then

Where does that leave companies like Adobe, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that Windows 7 may well be a complete and utter f**k up just like Vista was, it’s likely to be less of one I admit, but now that Apple have released Snow Leopard and there’s a new Ubuntu release every 6 months, which is MORE than just usable but in actuality fantastic, plus KDE4.3 being an absolute and resounding success with likely an even better release by the time Windows 7 even hits the shelves, not to mention other distributions releasing every year or less, it’s going to be hard for Windows to compete really, let’s also not forget the almighty Google, who lets face it, don’t really fail at anything they try to do, are going to release Chrome OS somewhere between now and 2011, does anyone really think that Windows is going to continue competing for much longer?

Another valid point on this subject is the recent actions of major OEM machine manufacturers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, IBM, ASUS, Acer etc. All of these companies and more, have recently made agreements with companies like Canonical and Novell to use Ubuntu and OpenSUSE as their OEM operating systems, this has started out small time, but my genuine belief as to why they’ve even initiated these deals is that they’re just as aware of the fact that if Microsoft goes bust or at least faces major financial problems that prevent it from keeping it’s position in the market, they’ll be left without an operating system to use OEM. If that happens, what would Adobe do with no native Linux release available to sell to all the customers now running Linux, lose a hell of a lot of money is what.

Microsoft do have a track record of releasing a terrible OS, and then quite a good one to recover

But the fact is a lot of people are truly sick of Microsofts new-found ultra-paranoia, with Windows Genuine Advantage getting worse and worse it’s like the DRM of operating systems, and we all know how many people love DRM don’t we. Now Windows 7 is built on Vista, so it could go one of two ways. Windows Vista is the new Windows ME, just as Windows 98SE was the new Windows 98. Windows 98 was a pretty terrible OS, it crashed more than anything else ever had, it could run much when it first started and it had more problems than a de-hydrated dog with both Mange and Ticks, Windows 98SE however was fantastic in comparison, it was built entirely on Windows 98, it had the same interface, just as Windows 7 appears to have the same interface as Vista (Which is not really a well liked one I must admit). Windows 98SE was definitely a hit, but then they blew it, they released Windows ME, the MOST diabolic operating system MS has released to date, it didn’t just crash it ate hardware, refused to recover things it had deleted itself, half the time it wouldn’t boot up and to make things worse you couldn’t get a refund or an exchange or a downgrade.

Windows XP first release was terrible, SP1 was better, SP2 was fantastic, SP3 made the OS almost unusable and completely in-compatible with hardware and software that had worked perfectly before the SP was installed. Vista was a complete re-write apparently, different kernel, different interface (Although familiar with the start menu etc) even MS themselves admit publicly that it was a complete failure, so will Windows 7 be a slightly better OS like Windows 98SE was to Windows 98 or will it be a completely diabolical re-hash like Windows ME, or will it be like Windows XP SP2, a brilliant re-build of a terrible OS? Only time will tell, unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to save MS as much as they think it is and I’m not only thinking it’ll fail, I hope it will.

Adobe and Linux could be peas in a pod

If Adobe do release the CS on Linux then I think it will be great, not only for Adobe but for the general consumer. The whole thing is a viscous cycle, because Adobe products are not available on Linux, the OEM manufacturers know that designers and web designers will likely decide not to buy a Linux OEM box, likewise because the OEM boxes with Linux installed are not yet so plentiful, Adobe thinks there isn’t enough of a market share to spend the money developing a release for Linux. All it will take is for companies like Adobe, who do have a great deal of vendor-lock-in power out there, to start releasing products for Linux. Once Linux isn’t SO reliant on open source/free software and has corporate software available for it too, the OEM manufacturers will feel far more comfortable about shipping more machines, the customers will feel much happier about buying the OEM machines and the companies like Adobe continue to make money no matter what happens to those lovely people in Redmond.

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Author:  Hollow
November 28, 2008



Does a purist attitude hurt the development of Linux?

When you have something like Linux which is available FOR free and IS free, you have the inevitable issues of people taking advantage of the situation and giving nothing in return. This is something that unfortunately is just a fact of life, if you offer something at no cost, people will take it, however if you offer something that is free “as in liberty”, not everyone will want it, nor will they care, if you combine the two you’ll attract both types of people. This is why Linux appeals to so many people already and why it’s user-base and developer-base is expanding daily. You have the people in this world who are idealists and want everyone to be nice to everybody else and be ethical, you have the freeloaders, the cheapskates and the pompous, then you have the realists, like me. Linux manages to cover all these people quite nicely, with Red Hat, Canonical, Debian, Novell and the volunteer only operations.

Red Hat does not have a purist attitude

As far as the purist attitude goes, Red Hat shouldn’t really exist, or if they do, they certainly shouldn’t charge for what they do. In the purist’s eyes, Red Hat is a corporate company, capitalizing on the freedom of Linux and other GPL software, even if they do give back development. The truth is, without corporates, money, trade and a marketplace, the world would almost literally stop rotating, and then we all float off into space and we can’t breath anymore, that’s not a good thing in case you were wondering. To the best of my knowledge, when Linus, Richard and the other Open Source pioneers invented their respective softwares and laid down the rules & regulations that became the GPL and the “mantra” if you will of Open Source Software, there was nothing said about being unable to charge for the software, or for services pertaining to it, the only rule that came close, was that it had to also be available freely and you had to provide the source code with it, along with any copyright notices, the GPL itself and maintain the credits of any original works. So is Red Hat a bad company? Not in my opinion no, they provide direct competition for Microsoft in the server market and they don’t really do all that much in Desktops, except at the “Super Corporate” level.

Is it wrong to be a freeloader?

Not entirely no. Freeloaders are actually required in order to make anything grow, let’s face it, without all the people who use Linux and other GPL software on a day to day basis, that don’t have the knowledge or expertise to do anything other than use it, there would be no reason for the developers to improve things so much, on such a regular basis. This is almost the same as asking if money is a bad thing, it is in many ways the root of all evil, but the fact is, without it, there would be very little motivation for people to make things, invent things or develop existing creation. Now don’t get me wrong, things would still get invented, developed and refined, it’s human nature to do these things, the difference without money and/or demand though, is that the motivation to do these things is much less. Without companies like Canonical and Red Hat for example, who ARE in it for money, regardless of how much or how little they actually make at present, the current state of the Linux Desktop would be NOWHERE NEAR what it is today. If companies like these weren’t out there, constantly trying to develop a product that they can use to make money, in order to compete with the ultimate corporate (MS), the desktop would still get developed, but it would be done at a very slow rate in comparison.

Without compliance there can be no harmony

So the purists believe that we should rid our systems of anything proprietary, that includes NVidia and ATi drivers, it also includes any proprietary software such as Adobe Reader, Flash or Photoshop, not to mention the various other programs that are required to do certain jobs, which I’m sorry, there just isn’t an equivalent for in FOSS sometimes. One of the things Symsys does for it’s customers is produce ready to print images, these can be for anything from articles in a newspaper or magazine, to a flier, brochure, business card, car graphics or even a 50ft billboard advertisement. Unfortunately, as much as we adore FOSS, Linux and all that is GPL, we have absolutely no choice in some of these situations, but to use proprietary software to get the job done. Before the purists jump on their bandwagon of, “You just can’t be bothered to look for the software”, we have, we found some in certain circumstances and it either didn’t do the job at all or it didn’t do it anywhere near well enough, quickly enough or without a severe amount of intervention, now that’s not FOSS fault, it’s not the developers fault, it’s the proprietary software developers fault, for developing industry standards and not giving anything away to the FOSS developers to work with, regardless of your views on how imoral that may be, they have the legal right to do so. Unfortunately if there just isn’t any FOSS available to do the job, we need to find software that will, or turn the job away to a competitor, that just wouldn’t be good business and unfortunately feeding my family is my number one moral.

We use FOSS where and whenever physically possible, we even custom write software occassionally to make it do what we want, but that isn’t always practical, possible or financially viable with deadlines, customer expectations and workloads. The fact that I run dual 19″ screens and our designer runs dual 22″ screens, means that without Nvidia drivers we’d be running one screen each, because getting them working, to a standard that is acceptable, usable and productive, would be completely futile in terms of time, money and resources to make it happen in-house. Instead we use NVidia drivers, we want the functionallity that comes with using Adobe Reader to read PDFs and we want the compatibility that you only get when using Flash player to watch Flash movies, Gnash is great but it just isn’t Flash.

Purists are doing the very thing they supposedly hate

In expecting every single user of FOSS to return something, they are themselves demanding the software be paid for in some way, collaboration and co-operation is imperitive to FOSS and the world itself, the fact is though, so are freeloaders. Without freeloaders there is less demand, without demand, there is very little production, simple. Most FOSS is developed initially, because it fills the purpose of the person developing it, or the person that hired them to develop it, later though it is developed further because a demand exists. The developer chooses to make it freely available to anyone, anywhere, anytime and they also make a conscious decision that they allow people to do what they want with the source code (for the most part), change it, make addons for it, convert it to different platforms etc. and in doing so they also acknowledge that people can go and sell it as a boxed product and make money from it, even though they’ve done nothing but burn it to disc and stick it in a box. People and companies are also free to charge for services pertaining to that software, no matter what, they didn’t have to develop it, change it in any way or even have anything to do with it, up to the point that they advertised the service relating to it. If they didn’t, the adoption and spread of Linux would be far slower, thus lowering demand, thus slowing production and development.

Purism itself isn’t evil, it has the best of intentions

There’s nothing wrong with idealism, there’s is certainly nothing wrong with purism if you can obtain it, however preaching about purism in the open media and insisting that everyone follow your lead, makes you seem very much like a cult/religious evangelist, and certainly makes you seem very immature and unrealistic. Trying to enforce your views and your methods on the rest of the world around you, that just isn’t groovy baby and it certainly isn’t the way of FOSS. The ability to make Open Source business models financially rewarding and viable, is imperetive to FOSS development, as is the ability for people to use it freely, with no investment whatsoever, be that time, money or skills. Without these two primarily and unfortunately “unfree” attributes, FOSS would surely be underdeveloped. To enable the adoption of FOSS and reduce the market share of proprietary software, FOSS must first keep it’s enemies closer than it keeps it’s friends, it must enable it’s users to interact with people that have not yet seen the light, in order that they might see it in the future. When looking at things practically, without the ability to sell services for FOSS, I wouldn’t be in business, without the ability to use NVidia drivers, I wouldn’t be able to use Linux productively and without the freeloaders, Linux wouldn’t even be developed enough for my customers to want to use it so I’d have no target market. The previous paragraph may sound selfish because I’ve used my own business as an example, but I need freeloaders, Linux and FOSS needs freeloaders, Red Hat, Google, Canonical, Novell, they all need freeloaders and so indeed does the world itself. I admire purists for their ability to make themselves completely vendor independant, to make their own choices without detrimental effects to others and having such a clean concience, they need to realise though that not everyone can do that, no matter how much they may want to.

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