OS X v. Linux: Who Will Win the Battle for the Unix Desktop?


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OS X must be scaring the Linux pundits if an article at Open for Business is anything to go by.

Written by the site's editor-in-chief, the story argues that OS X cannot compete with Linux on several fronts. We'd take issue with several of them.

# 1: The author says users looking for freedom from MS won't find it in Cupertino. He'd rather mention Apple lawsuits than the fact that Darwin (and now Rendezvous) is open source. No one - least of all Apple - stops developers from building and giving away free apps if they want. Or sharewaring them if they don't. Yes, the article does mention Darwin; but Apple is a business and of course it maintains control over the important elements Mac OS source code.

# 2: He argues that the Mac OS is not an intelligent choice, due to its integration with PowerPC, whereas x86 is the standard. His assertion is that "Worse, by being only available on one platform, Mac OS can't tie together all the functions of an enterprise - such as legacy systems - like Linux can."

I'm a bit hazy about what he's getting at here, but I don't see how a Unix system can't hold together an enterprise system. Linux is just another *nix, after all.

The article bangs on about the Mac's 'premium price' which is a hoary old chestnut that's always dragged out. Time and again, you can price an equivalent say, iBook, with a Dell and find there's little between them on price.

# 3 He then waxes lyrically on the beauty, ease-of-use etc. of the various Linux distros and the GUIs.

He believes Linux has become so user-friendly, even newbies could handle it. But if we're talking 'desktops', our beloved Open for Business author better acquaint himself with An Average Computer User. Maybe 'mediocre' is a better word. 99% of the people I know have never even heard of Linux and most cannot plug their DVD player into their TV. Confront them with 500 different Linux distros and they will suffer coronaries. They look for a software download which says 'Choose Win 98/ME/2000/XP version' and they have no idea what version their PC runs [I also know lots of people who swear their Mac runs 'Windows' 95'. Perhaps I need to upgrade my class of friends].

Okay, so this may also apply to Mac users who don't know their Classic from their X, but at least they have a 50/50 chance of downloading the right one.

Fact is, there's no Photoshop, no Office (maybe to Linux devotees this's a good thing), no Illustrator, no Final Cut and certainly no iDVD. That's fine, and I'm sure that Linux users could point to dozens of apps to take their place.

But we're still talking about desktops. And, like it or loath it, people at home and at work live in Office. It is the primary app of every enterprise and home office. Literally millions of templates exist in workplaces, all done in Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Offer to bring in your Linux laptop and CrossOver Office and you'll get a look from your sysadmin roughly equivalent to the one they gave you last time you organized a 'Bring Your Mac to Work Day'.

And, no Mac v.X is not a 'port' of Office XP, as our ill-informed and intellectually-incompetent friend at Open for Business (for how much longer?) suggests. The code base since Office '98 not been of Windows origin. And a 'late' Mac port? Since when did Office XP come out before Office X?

He also talks of 'Linux-preloaded $200 PCs'. What kind of PC do you get for $200? A truly high-quality item, I'll warrant.

Yes, IBM is behind Linux to spike MS, but IBM ain't interested in desktop systems anymore, except as minor-league clients to their servers. Unlike Gateway, IBM have come to the conclusion there's no dough in desktops. It took them 15 years and Lou Gerstner to figure this out, but by heck, it take a long time to turn a ship as large as Big Blue around.

We can only assume the author must sell RedHat out of Michael Dell's old dormroom, given the almost obsessive interest he has in Linux's triumph over OS X.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Linux and you can even run it on PowerPC if you so choose. But isn't it interesting that the 'no software' argument Wintel drones frequently use against Macs is put on the other foot when it comes to Linux advocacy? In comparison with Linux, Mac OS X has bucket loads of mainstream software.

By the way, try locking a couple of Linux guys in the same room as a few ideologically-committed MCSEs - then watch the penguin feathers fly.

Oh, and be sure to read the article and score it (1-5). His email is also conveniently linked. We're pretty sure Macs can connect to the internet and there are browsers available.