As more Windows users cry “Help, I’ve been Vista whipped!”, I thought that the introduction of the oppressive Windows Vista was going to be a boon for Linux.
I got the first part right. As Vista subverts your computer into a Microsoft Peripheral, subject to whatever whim “Balmer and The Boys” cook up, users have resisted. A large number of not-so-technical people I’ve talked to want to avoid Vista like the plague. [And in my opinion, rightly so.]
My assumption was that given reasonably priced hardware from several suppliers and completely free Linux distributions like Ubuntu, the discomfort with Vista would be the kick that finally pushed Linux into the consumer mainstream.
Every single one of those non-technical users, and a vast majority of my technical friends, are planning to make their next system a Mac. This is a real testament to brand, design, and image. I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs has sales data that is showing this trend, and he’s probably pumped. It looks good on him. This report from Net Applications demonstrates just how much market share Apple is gaining.
But as a big fan of open source, I wonder what the the problem with Linux is. Ubuntu has a pretty good name. Yet a lot of my technical friends who could set Ubuntu up with no difficulty are still thinking Apple. Why?
Part of the problem is drivers. I tried valiantly to get Ubuntu to run on a laptop I bought last month, but the hardware was simply ahead of the software, unhappily I wound back on Windows XP.
Microsoft has momentum. I pretty much expect that they will continue along their present “we own you” course for some time. Probably until they’ve shed enough mass to be capable of turning a corner again. In other words at least five years from now, probably more. This makes it a really good time to buy Apple stock.
The real losers in this transition are the manufacturers of Windows PCs. OS X isn’t going to be running on Dell computers any time soon, at least not legally. Toshiba, Acer, Lenovo, and all the others are in the same situation.
A few weeks back I posted an open letter to PC manufacturers, calling on them to make an investment in open source drivers for their systems. At the time, I thought it a wise service to their technically advanced customers. Now I think it might rank more as a survival strategy.