How Apple killed the Linux desktop and why that doesn’t matter

“It’s hard to say exactly what percentage of desktop and laptop computers run Apple OS X, but it’s clear that the operating system has made slow but steady gains at chipping away at that the sizable lead Microsoft established in the ’90s with its Windows operating system,” Klint Finley reports for Wired. “Some figures put the number at about 6 to 7 percent of the desktop market.”

MacDailyNews Take: What is the Mac’s share of personal computers not forced on people, but chosen of their own free will? Read more here.

“But one thing’s for sure: OS X has been more successful than Linux, the open source operating system that has found a home on data-center servers but is still a rarity on desktops and laptops,” Finley reports. “Why is that? Miguel de Icaza — one of the original creators of GNOME, a Linux desktop interface that has struggled to take hold — believes that a large portion of the software developers that could have taken Linux to greater heights defected to other platforms, including not only Apple OS X but — more importantly — the web.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Linux on the desktop has always been a pipe dream.MacDailyNews Take, July 31, 2008


  1. Linux self-destructed via its own developers’ fragmentation. and MS sabatoge. it might have done much better if one of the major OEM’s – like Dell or HP – had really gotten behind it and optimized it, lining up major third party software for it. but MS’ license terms made sure they never would. and they probably didn’t have the vision anyway.

    1. Even major OEM backing doesn’t guarantee even modest success. In the 1990s, Dell – after rejecting Sun’s Solaris as a desktop offering – offered their own version: Dell UNIX. It wasn’t bad for its time, but Dell never promoted it. AT&T’s “Destiny” release – a graphical version formally known as System V R 4.2 – was far superior, and more functional than early versions of Windows NT. AT&T ultimately sold it off to Novell, which did little with it. (Likewise with SCO and Caldera which inherited the assets. All have since gone bankrupt.)

      It’s been years since I’ve used Linux on the desktop. Unless one is determined to run an OS other than Windows on a generic PC, Linux serves little purpose.

  2. One example: GNOME, KDE, Xfce, Enlightenment, IceWM, etc.

    The supreme benefit and curse of FOSS is that you can do whatever you want with it. No one is in-charge, not even Linus, and, if you don’t like your WM, you can create your own. There’s a lack of focus, and an seemingly infinite number of side projects. If you want the power of *nix and a great UI, OS X is the way to go. I love Ubuntu, but if they couldn’t bring the year of the Linux desktop, I don’t think it will happen.

    Win8 has the best chance in a long time of encouraging people to look at Linux. OEM’s want to differentiate themselves and they can’t license OS X, so…

  3. I am forced to use Windows because our IT department in the company doesn’t know any other computer or OS.
    Who of you ACTUALLY paid for the windows license in your computer?
    I use Mac at home and I did actually chose that computer and I have actually pay for every OS upgrade.

    1. I paid for my Windows licences going back to 1998, and I still keep the old versions on a shelf, along with my collections of desiccated toads and thrift-store doll heads.

    2. I have a set of Windows 1.0 floppies around. Didn’t pay for them – MS included them with the MS-DOS floppies on a machine the boss bought. Installed it one morning, removed it before lunch. It really was that bad.

  4. My prediction is this:

    In the next 5-10 years MS and Apple will cripple their desktop operating systems via sandboxing, app stores, no file system access and the ‘idiot is king’ mentality with their UIs to the point that Linux on the desktop will be the only real option for a general computing device that does not require locking yourself to a major cloud provider and being forced to rely on small applets that may or may not get your work done.

    We are already seeing OS X and iOS merge with each release of OS X (UI wise) and Windows 8 is a sign that not only does MS want to change everything but if you stay on that platform you better be prepared to deal with limited ‘metro’ apps.

    Linux or another open source desktop OS will be the only way to have a computer where you are in control and can get at the nuts and bolts of the operating system. MS and Apple will eventually lock you out of ‘general computing’ and while they may have a business case for doing so I have no intention of supporting them when it happens.

    1. Like Apple users, no one takes linux users seriously.

      When your prediction falls flat on its face, who do we say I told you so too? That’s what I thought, so basically you can shove your prediction.

      1. If it does not happen then I’ll be happy since that will mean that Apple and MS don’t turn their operating systems into an idiot box that leaves power users out in the cold.

        I’m predicting Apple and MS will box us in and make their future operating systems more limited and more restricted. I don’t think they will do this on purpose exactly, at least limiting the user won’t be the goal, they’ll just end up building comfortable prisons as they try to make things more ‘simple’

        My hope is it does not happen but if it does then Linux will be where I hang my hat on the desktop.

        1. If it does not happen then I’ll be happy since that will mean that Apple and MS don’t turn their operating systems into an idiot box that leaves power users out in the cold.

          Oh no, they’ll screw that all up, bank on it. Apple because they’ve lost their visionary and because Sir Jonny Ive’s hasn’t found a muse, yet.

          Microsoft, because its in their nature. [ He pens while doing his best tongue-in-cheek Ballmer impression ]

          I see a future where computers are well hidden, and rightly so.

          In my future, I see embedded run-times doing our chores, like silent housekeepers on Segways flitting about, tending to our machines and fetching coffee.

          Now for you my friend, your life will be an absolute joy. You’ll tinker til the day you pass from this existence into the next, where you can go bitch at Steve Jobs for destroying television as we knew it.

          1. You bring up some good points and maybe part of me writing about all of this is that seeing technology change is good, but I’m resistant as I get older. lol.

            I want the next generation of geeks to break out of the confines of computing and to be able to experiment and learn, to hack away at information and to empower themselves

            It seems like everything is moving to an appliance computing world where you just consume content on your iWhatever while sitting on your couch. It feels like its becoming mindless garbage to me.

            Hey if I make it to heaven I won’t be b*tching at anyone! I’m not sure it exists and if it does I’m not convinced I’m going that direction! 😉

    2. After Lordthree’s comment, I went back and reread what you said and I regret to inform you Lordthree is a dick and I haven’t changed my opinion of your opinions.

      You’re a drama queen who loves getting into the thick of thin things.

      Lordthree is really you backing your play so I won’t waste time addressing anyone calling themselves lord of anything. He can shove his lord up his azzzzzah!

      As for your point about operating systems in general, no one really cares about the OS once they sit down to do work. Not the designers or gamers and no one wants to see or hear from the goddamn OS once the action starts.

      And since nothing breeds success like success, developers are the canary in a coal mine. When they start leaving in legions, then we can talk, provided you don’t bring that lord fucker with you.

    3. Here is what will probably really happen.

      Apple and MS will cripple their operating systems just as you said… and no one will care but the supreme tech-heads because 90% of the general public just want something to do whatever task they want done as easily and painlessly as possible.
      Linux will disappear except as a toy for neck-beard types.

      I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Apple buy MS in less than 10 years.

      1. • Apple made all the iOS features OPTIONAL in Lion and Mountain Lion. They don’t get in the way.

        • Microsoft made all the Metro features REQUIRED in Windows 8. Metro is CONSTANTLY in the way. I don’t believe it is any profound prophesy to expect user lash-back AGAINST Windows 8 for specifically this reason. Metro is THAT BAD.

        Oh and, why the frack would Apple EVER want Microsoft? What exactly would Apple do with anything Microsoft? I don’t even see Apple having a remote interest in Office. They’d just as soon see it die and have something better arise to replace it. Microsoft is worthless rubbish, ready to burn.

    4. Damn, this ‘Really’ anonymous coward keeps shoving his feet in his mouth.

      Seeing as Apple go out of their way to keep OS X as certified UNIX, there is no chance in hell that access to the Terminal and all its wonderful UNIX will EVER disappear. It’s just too damned wonderful and useful.

      Consider the continued GROWTH of all the MacPorts projects. I am continually astounded at all its new software. It’s all hard core UNIX software. Despite its heavy geek factor, there are thousands of people contributing to it, making it ever more diverse and useful.

      Expect Apple to keep its UNIX the BEST UNIX available.

  5. “… where you are in control and can get at the nuts and bolts of the operating system.”
    And the 99.999+% of computer users care about that, how much? Zero. That’s how much.

    “… I have no intention of supporting them when it happens.”
    Are you going to hold your breath, too?

    1. I think your percentages are way off. We have regulars on this board who fear OS X is going to become iOS. You see their posts with each new version of the OS. Out on the Web I hear people screaming about Windows 8 and the direction(s) it appears to be going.

      If it happens I’ll be on another platform with the rest of the power users and you can enjoy Dweeb OS with the rest of the brainless zombies.

      1. Some of what you’re saying is true, Apple does do stupid things at times, and then they flip under pressure and sober analysis.

        It’s unfortunate, but how many times have you regretted hitting the send button?

      2. and you think the people who write in this forum are what… The mainstream of computer users….THIS is geek central and 99.9 percent of computer users couldn’ give a rats ass about MDN, you or me or anything tech…. They want to use their device and the OS, of they have to actually be aware of it, gets in the way.

  6. Linux is an obesolete piece of crap. Use Unix instead. Linux for tablets? hahahaha Open source my ass… copycat technology and mix Mac/Windows interface. Bag of hurt.

    1. Linux is good for server duty but I’m not gonna take her to the dance. I wanna get laid by the most filthy whore that ever laid eyes on a PC, and I’m gonna buy her a Mac and she’ll love me for it.

      Hell, she might even talk dirty to me!

    1. I’ll go further and state that the Linux users who hang out here tormenting the readership are not only cheapskates, but that they pirate the biggest selection of warez of any minority computing group on the planet.

      Yes, I know it’s hard to believe they outnumber the Winter VIsitors in Florida, but its true. Those senior’s will go to the mattresses over Pirate Bay!

  7. Ubuntu is dead? Really? News to me. Silly article. 20 million users and counting. Come on now!

    Would love to see Samsung adopt Ubuntu, fund it right and go hard with it.

    1. “Delivering the keynote at the Ubuntu Developer Summit at Budapest, Hungary, Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth has announced that Canonical’s goal is to have 200 million Ubuntu users in four years. Canonical has not officially provided any data on how many Ubuntu users there currently are — in fact, the number is quite difficult to track. However, according to Prakash Advani, a partner manager for Central Asia at Canonical, there are an estimated 12 million Ubuntu users.”

      That is last year’s quote, how is your figure larger than Advani’s?

      1. October 2012 Summit expect that the number will be North of 20 million and does propose 20 million already achieved.

        I have it loaded on my Macs via Parallels and secondary boot on my PCs. Very nice and easy on resources.

  8. There is little difference between Unix and Linux, functionally. OS X is a Unix desktop, therefore, OS X did not “kill” the Linux desktop, it made it mainstream. The other *n*x distros are just not as good, so Mac OS dominates *n*x on the desktop.

  9. I left Windows in 1998, becoming a Linux user.

    I left Linux in 2005, becoming a Mac OS X user.

    Main difference in both cases was, in 1998 I was sick and tired of Windows. In 2005 I was happy with the Linux desktop, but I wanted a better experience.

    Despite what haters say, the Linux desktop is not bad. Its design is way more productive than Windows. It has features I miss in Mac OS X (like focus follows mouse), the equivalent of Mac OS X Spaces has been there way before it was on the Mac… in a nutshell, it was not bad.

    The Linux Desktop, though, has three problems for the average user:

    1. Lack of drivers for certain hardware: It’s a pain in the neck to make some hardware work with Linux. Cameras, scanners, printers, wireless cards, USB devices, video cards…. there are a lot not supported right out of the box. Now, that is not Linux’s fault, but the manufacturer. The community builds support for those devices sometimes, but it all depends on the demand. Now, there are a lot of devices not working on Mac OS X either. But the issue is, which OS is mainstream enough to be supported by the manufacturer? Once again, that’s not an OS limitaton per se.

    2. Games! Yes, desktop users love games. And there is not a huge offer of games for Linux. It was the same for Mac OS X for a while. Even today, unfortunately, serious gamers choose Windows. For the record, I’m NOT a serious games. I’m a casual one and can live without some titles. But again, most desktop users want games.

    3. Us U*x heads love our Terminal window. The Linux Desktop didn’t really have a comprehensive way to install/uninstall apps. In time, this is changing, and distros like Ubuntu is changing this. But before, there was no clear conciliation between the GUI and the app. You were able to change from GNOME to KDE, but you would lose you apps icons, and you would have no other way of running your apps but using a terminal or re-creating symlinks. So, not having a standard GUI makes it more complicated to standard users.

    What Linux needs is some industrial designers to clean up the mess, better collaboration between GUI developers (I’m sick and tired of the KDE vs. GNOME! If GNU is about collaboration, it should be GNOME AND KDE working together and merging into something better), and pressure to manufacturers to release drivers.

    Honestly, that would make a kick-ass desktop environment that would be much better than Windows, and could even become a serious competitor to Mac OS X.

    Until then, Mac OS X remains the best end-user Unix available for us U*x heads.

  10. I seriously don’t get the logic of ‘Apple killed the Linux desktop.’ Linux survives. It has had a remarkably wide acceptance and has been used for a wide variety of purposes.

    Linux determined its own fate by being, for the most part, a geek also-ran OS that benefited many people, just not the general populace.

    Meanwhile, agreeing with @Grifterus above:
    • OS X is BSD UNIX at its core.
    • OS X is certified as REAL UNIX, as opposed to Linux.
    • BSD UNIX OSes continue to enjoy the reputation of being the MOST SECURE operating systems available, including OS X.
    • All be benefits and software that come with real UNIX are available in OS X.
    • Then on top of all the UNIX stuff, you have everything Apple, which happens to remain the most user-friendly GUI available.

    Linux has NOT been ‘killed’. I’m glad it will continue on for those who find it useful and put it to good work.

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