Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Apple vs. Linux

I have been reading a lot of news about Apple since they announced that they were switching to Intel processors. People I associate with are interested in discussing this with me because they consider me the local Linux Guru and since OS X is a BSD based operating system. So lately, when people ask me what I think about Apple's switch to Intel processors this is my answer.

Its my opinion that Apple's decision to switch to Intel processors may be good for their business provided they make an important strategic decision. Apple is going to have allowed people to run OS X on any Intel based PC. They can do this one of two ways. They can officially support OS X on any hardware or they can do it unofficially. I think they will take the unofficial route. If Apple makes it simple for the hacker community to circumvent any security measures that force users to run OS X on MAC hardware only then people will run it on other hardware without support from Apple. This will increase the adoption rate of OS X and when users need a high end OS X PC then they will buy the supported MAC hardware. A couple of years down the road when OS X adoption has grown sufficiently then Apple will begin to officially support OS X on other manufactures PCs.

If this happens the UNIX based desktop market will no longer be up for grabs. Apple will have won and there will be three tiers to UNIX desktops. At the top will be OS X running on MAC hardware. Second will be OS X on unsupported hardware. Coming in a distant third will be Linux.

Why will Linux come in third? This is due to the fact that it is still a difficult operating system to administer. Even the most advanced RPM based distributions are difficult to manage once you go beyond what is included with the installation CDs. Device drivers are also an issue. Vendors have not developed drivers on a large scale. It's not likely to happen either because the key people in the Linux community will not embrace closed source drivers and hardware manufactures can not afford to release the intellectual property due to the competitive nature of their businesses. Finally, open source drivers remain too difficult for the average user to configure and install.

I am not the only one with this opinion. OS X is on the minds of other Linux users as well. I was at my local LUG meeting recently only to see several Linux enthusiasts running MACs and OS X instead. I was a little embarrassed by this because I have considered running OS X too.

There is still hope for Linux. It could come out on top but that would take a couple of smart moves by influential Linux companies and some big miracles. The main Linux distribution makers need to partner with some major hardware vendors and come up with Linux certified hardware for the desktop and notebook market and compete head to head with Apple's supported Mac/OS X products. Second, the device driver issues with Linux will need to be resolved. Some how the open source community will have to find a way to accept close source device drivers. Finally, major vendors who currently write software for the Microsoft and Apple platforms will have to be convinced to also publish their software for Linux.

Thanks for taking the time to ready my rant. One more thing......I also forgot to mention that all of this is a battle for second place. None of this will displace Microsoft's dominance in the desktop market. At least in the foreseeable future.

(NOTE: Comments are welcome but keep them on topic. Additional insight or information on the topic is appreciated! Off topic posts or fake comments with links will be deleted)


Blogger geekp0wer said...

Today I successfully loaded Mac OS X into VMWare. I knew this was comming. Unofficially of course.

4/26/2006 7:34 AM  

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