Apple is Killing Linux on the Desktop
2008 is upon us and we’re greeted with the news, from NetApplications, that Apple Macs running OS X account for 7.3% of computers used to access the web.
More than a few Mac sites have mischievously quoted this as Macs having 7.3% market share. Market share of course is based on computer sales, as OS X’s own dictionary states. Not that market share accurately reflects the actual install base, and nor do these internet access figures.
However, as is also being noted, it is the trend of these figures that bears consideration. In the last two years, OS X has seen continual growth, from 4.21% in Jan 2006 (the first month of figures), to 5.67% in December 2006, to 7.31% in December 2007.
In the same time, Linux’s percentage has risen from only 0.29% to 0.63%. Although depending on how you apply the maths—you can put a positive slant on that by saying it’s more than doubled—the cold truth is Linux on the desktop is still barely worth mentioning. To paraphrase: reports of its life have been greatly exaggerated.
These figures are quite disturbing from Linux’s desktop perspective and although they have more than doubled, consider the iPhone has already achieved 0.12% in just six months. The iPhone has the potential to become the third most popular internet connected device! That deserves an exclamation mark.
The Linux figure is quite surprising considering the coverage Linux gets in computer magazines. Of the consumer computer magazines available in my part of the world, most of them give Linux a significantly disproportionately larger coverage than its desktop install-base demands, but none have specialist columns for Macs. That’s always seemed unfair, and now seeing these figures proves it so.
Linux has obviously not been helped at all by the Mac’s resurgence, and probably most importantly, Apple’s decision to switch to Intel CPUs.
Early in the decade it seemed that if you wanted a Windows alternative, Linux was it. Nowadays, an Apple Mac is undoubtedly the alternative and, with its resurgence and its Intel base, a very viable one.
Not that long ago there was almost a consensus that Linux would soon over take Apple. Several commentators suggested a few years ago that Apple’s biggest threat was not Microsoft, but Linux. Apple has taken care of that threat!
It’s not hard to understand why Linux has failed to live up to the promise of being a viable desktop alternative to Windows. Linux’s problems are many. For example: Apple has Microsoft Office, Linux doesn’t; Apple has Adobe Creative Suite, Linux doesn’t; Apple has easily accessed and easy to use service and support, Linux doesn’t; Apple is driven by someone who has some understanding of end-user needs, Linux is not.
Unfortunately though, it’s not necessarily a good thing for Linux to be struggling on the desktop, as the Linux community has so much to offer desktop computing. But with Apple and the Mac flying, Linux may never get the chance again.