This blog is the posting of a Paper that I wrote for a class.
Dispelling the Myths of the Linux Desktop Revolution and the Revival of Apple
Everyone loves the idea of a low cost computer. The idea of a $300 laptop sounds too good to be true for most people. Now this is the market that people think Linux will finally be able to overtake Microsoft’s Windows. I mean it seems easy enough since Linux is free after all right? Everybody seems to hate Windows Vista so the only place people are going to turn to is Linux. That is at least what many that follow open-source and within the Linux movement think. They think that one bad OS from Redmond will kill the software behemoth known as Microsoft. I’m here to lay to rest some of this myth, that out of nowhere a operating system can come and overtake one of the largest companies in the world. Microsoft does face a true enemy that many have forgotten for the last few years. This is Apple, a company supported by style and selling premium computing. There is one myth that there is a coming Linux Desktop revolution and there is an ignored predator that is about to strike out.
What is Linux?
The first thing that needs to happen is one must understand what Linux is. Linux is an operating system that is completely free (free as in speech) and is available to everyone. No, I am not lying it’s out there. If you go to http://www.ubuntu.com/ you can download a free copy that will install and give you a very functional computer system. The crazy part is it even uses some of the programs you are used to using every day such as Firefox for your email or OpenOffice.org to do your document write-ups. Companies like Novell, Red Hat and Canonical1 hire people to work on not only copies they sell but also for their employees to work on a product that even a competitor can sell. This sounds like pure gold for any hardware company doesn’t it? Ironically it’s not really. The key problem is there is no really good desktop support for Linux that normal users can use.
What Linux Lacks
To sum it up, Linux lacks a base. Don’t get me wrong, Linux has a codebase2 which is always growing. I am talking about its community base and average user numbers. Linux has a wonderful community. I was a member of it for 2 years and am still somewhat a member of it. I use it every once in a while, and am still willing to give advice. There are lots of people out there that would love to help you with Linux. The only problem is that if you are not willing to probe the depths of the Internet you will most likely never meet one of these people. Currently Linux has only .65% of the Desktop market. (Net Applications 2008 ) And the real downside to this is the fact that there is very little in support that you don’t have to go looking for. Very few people have a relative that they can call up or a friend that they could ask for Linux help. Most Windows and Mac users, on other hand, know at least one person who can give them very good support for either.
Linux is Growing
This is a true statement, but many use it to say that somehow it will take over. The biggest growth that is being seen is from the sale of a new really small laptop called the Eee PC which is made by ASUS. I was reading a Linux blog that was talking about this topic and the author brought up the fact that ASUS was planning to sell 2 million of these laptops. (Vaughan-Nichols, One-Third of Asus Eee PC users to run Linux 2008 ) Now if someone pointed out that in the year of 2008 Microsoft planned to sell 2 million laptops people would laugh hysterically (According to Microsoft they sold 100 million copies of Windows Vista in 2007), and for Apple to announce that nobody would care since they normally ship more than that. So why is it a big deal to sell 2 million Linux laptops? Vaughan-Nichols says, “If Asustek sells that many, it’ll have sold more Linux PCs than all other Linux PC vendors combined up until 2008.” (Vaughan-Nichols, One-Third of Asus Eee PC users to run Linux 2008 ) Now that sounds like a system ready to take over. If 2 million is really that big for them. Is Linux a real threat for Microsoft? I don’t think so.
Everyone Hates Vista
So what is Microsoft’s position in this? According to some it’s stuck between Linux (which is going conquer the lower end according to some) and Apple (in the upper end of computing). (Vaughan-Nichols, Windows is caught between Mac and Linux 2008 ) Really though this is a lie. Microsoft is in a fine position right now. Vista may be hated, but everyone that doesn’t want Vista is not asking for Linux or a Mac instead they want XP. Does that really hurt Microsoft? Nope they are still selling a new software license and making a profit off of it. This though is only really happening for businesses and computer nerds. Many people really don’t even care what is installed on their computer as long as they know how to use it. So many just go and buy a computer with Vista on it, not caring. Really, if all the bloggers want to keep bashing Vista they can. It will keep the hate flowing, but really does nothing to prevent the Vista juggernaut from still being installed on new computers that people buy.
Hi, I want a PC
It is this statement exactly that will prevent Linux from gaining real ground. People want a PC. This doesn’t mean a Personal Computer (A Mac ironically is one of these as well) though, they are asking for a computer running Microsoft Windows. The Mac vs. PC TV ads furthered this form of thinking. This is what kills Linux the most. To get Linux on a computer, one has to download the operating system and put it onto a computer. One cannot just walk into a Computer Store and say “I want a Linux PC.” Also nobody in the normal populace would even think to walk into a store and ask for Linux, since a PC, in their mind, always just runs Windows, they generally don’t want to think of having a choice as it would just confuse them more (I mean they just had to figure out what to buy and the person selling it to them most likely used a lot of technical jargon).
For the last few years Apple has been setting itself up for something amazing. Apple has set up a perfect market to sell their iMacs. At its peak the iPod held around 90% of the MP3 Player market. The iPod has not kept this large control over the market, but the iPod has still been very popular since then. Apple, through the iPod, has placed one of the greatest viral marketing tools. The iPod with iTunes shows the user how easy it is to use an Apple product. After this the user then says “hey I wonder if all Apple products work this well.” Then this unsuspecting new Apple user walks over the closest Apple Store and tries out an iMac or MacBook only to find that indeed a Mac is just that easy to use, and another Apple user is born.
Mac users have a certain air about them. They are almost like a cult in the way the community works. This works greatly to their advantage. Not only are you buying a computer (and a really nice one at that) but you are buying your way into what many see (at least the ones inside) as an elite club. This seems to be one of the reasons why Apple users pay the premium to be part of this group of Apple users. This is also one of Apple’s advantages as there are so many people that use Windows that really don’t care and Linux, though it has a community, is not as easy to get into if you’re not a very technical person.
Overall there are odd changes going on in the computer industry right now. We are seeing Microsoft Windows Vista being disliked but only because Microsoft Windows XP is “good enough” in most people’s minds. Then there are the Linux people screaming revolution from their hilltops, but they are so scattered they are reaching few. Lastly, we have the Apple users who move like a giant blob, assimilating those that get too close into the Apple user base. There may be a shift coming to computing, but it’s hardly in the direction of Linux.
Net Applications. Market Share. February 2008. http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=8 (accessed March 31, 2008).
Vaughan-Nichols, Steven J. “One-Third of Asus Eee PC users to run Linux.” DesktopLinux.com. March 14, 2008. http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS8695263477.html (accessed March 31, 2008).
—. “Why Wal-Mart won’t have Linux desktops on its store shelves.” DesktopLinux.com. March 13, 2008. http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS9088528047.html (accessed March 31, 2008).
—. “Windows is caught between Mac and Linux.” DesktopLinux.com. March 21, 2008. http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS8541837412.html (accessed March 31, 2008).
1: Three of the largest/well known Linux Distributors.
2: A way to refer to the entirety of the projects source code as a whole.