As Linux grows, Mac market share set to increase?

Ryan Weal

June 19, 2006

It's been a long time coming. With all the changes happening at Apple these days it is becoming hard to imagine how bad it really was for the company back in the 1990s. So much has changed since then, OS X has indeed brought the fortunes that Steve Jobs predicted.

The reason OS X has been so successful is based on the culture it has created. When I studied in Computer Science at the beginning of my degree OS X was something new. Perhaps it was my shiny blue iBook that looked like a hello kitty purse or perhaps it was the beta operating system, but either way the general feedback I received was "weak computer" when in the halls of the computing concourse.

Back then OSX was difficult to use and the real savvy Mac users were all in the graphics arena. The Macintosh interface was nowhere near finished and documentation was sparse. Arguably, compared to Linux it still lacks documentation given all the howtos out there. The philosophy is different than Linux or Windows too... in most online guides you will find that there is in fact only one way to do "that" on a Macintosh. For many users this is a sigh of relief. To nerds, this is a burden.

So what changed? Was it the legions of devoted Unix-types that jumped the Microsoft's ship when Apple unmasked the largest widespread Unix implementation in history? Or, did the disparity of tools available spark a creative chord with those who had given up on the Windows world? Was it just the viruses?

The nerds took over.

Years later I am looking at the current version of the operating system and a little awestruck at what has happened. The Unix underpinnings of the system made thousands of new software titles available at the flip of a switch. The programming environment enabled cross-platform development which supported Apple's move to Intel. Then they made a boot loader that supports Windows. In short order Apple will likely support running Windows programs within the Mac interface, and this is where things start to get crazy.

Following these moves it is now clear that the Macintosh is positioned to be "everything to everyone" by supporting both Windows and Linux/Unix applications in addition to the easy to use Mac fare everyone loves. Market forecasters are predicting that with some agressive pricing strategy the Mac is slated to take off. Some say that changes are happening but we don't know the direction yet while others are claiming that Apple's sour times are over. Others in the Mac community are even a little more excited about the prospects.