Monday, July 27, 2009

Linux vs. Apple

I’ve seen plenty of debate of Apple versus Windows over the years. I’ve even seen some heated discussions on Linux taking on Microsoft. Rarely have I seen debate on Linux going up against Apple. I ran across this article by Matt Asay of CNET News. The original article I sense is not about picking on Linux but, trying to learn from the way Apple does business.

For the record I believe that Apple is different from Linux(and Microsoft) is that they design and build their computers from top to bottom. That includes design, operating system and so on. I believe they do it very well and are able to produce quality products that people love. They do put the customer first in this respect. Are they perfect? No they aren’t but they have been very successful. Will they ever topple Windows based computers? I highly doubt it.

Windows and Linux are operating systems. They do not build or design the computers that the software runs on. In many ways they are at a disadvantage to Apple. Windows and Linux cannot possibly test their software on every type of PC produced. Apple is able to focus and test their software on hardware they designed. Of course it’s going to run well. When you buy an Apple computer you get the whole package. The hardware and software is designed to work together. Now Windows and Linux has to work with a multitude of computer manufacturers.

What Apple also does well is that they focus on the end user. Most people want a product that is easy to use, practical, built well and stylish. Apple does bore people with the technical aspects of their products. They tend to focus on what the product is able to do. They also give there products easy to remember names like iMac, iPod, iPhone, MacBook, Safari, OS X, Mac Pro and so on. They also make there users feel as if they are part of a group that is exclusive.

Part of what keeps Linux from really exploding is in part due to it’s image. It’s looked at like something developed by geeks. This is not a new revelation by any means. They have come a long way from the beginning and have been improving. The sheer number different Linux distributions is daunting. This I believe is an obstacle to mainstream acceptance. When you by a Mac you know your going to get OS X. Buy a Windows PC you’ll get Vista. With Linux just picking out one can be time consuming and confusing. When you go looking around for Linux you get a huge variety of names like Puppy Linux, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Debian, RedHat, Mint, OpenSUSE, BackTrack,FreeBSD, Fedora, Slackware, Gentoo, CentOS, Sabayon, DamnSmallLinux, Mepis and the list goes on. Then when you start looking more into it your hit with unfamiliar terms like Gnome, Kde, Xfce, GUI, kernel, Terminals, mount, unmount to name a few. The Linux community should get behind one or two distributions and focus resources on them.  Too many distributions is confusing to the consumer at large. You ask a hundred Linux enthusiasts what there favorite operating system is your likely to get close to a hundred different answers.

If Linux is to be seriously considered a major contender for the desktop user(mainstream) it needs to make the end user there focus. Most consumers want something to plug in and use right away. Not something they need to spend hours upon  hours figuring out or getting used. Don’t get me wrong here I do like Linux(I use Xubuntu). It’s fairly easy to use but, I’ve taken the time to learn about it. I have a friend who constantly tries out different ones. That’s his style but, I wonder why not just pick one and run with it.

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