Friday, May 31, 2013

Windows/Apple Duopoly vs the World

Linux adoption has surged worldwide. But you won't find it on desktop PCs in the US at your local Best Buy or Costco. Microsoft still has sweet agreements with OEMs, businesses and schools to keep using it there. But in the last few years, something very interesting has happened. Linux has routed around Microsoft, like damage, to phones and tablets. These mobile devices are becoming our new computers.

In the old days, Microsoft ruled the boot block on every hard drive on every new computer. Just ask BeOS. They pleaded with Microsoft to play nice and lost, eventually going bankrupt in the process. All they wanted was to co-exist with Windows, but Microsoft would have none of that.

Along came Linux. Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, take your pick. All of the major distributions figured out a way to dual boot with Windows. It's that collaboration thing again. If the world wants to dual boot with Windows, there is nothing that Microsoft can do to stop them. Eventually, open source developers are going to figure out a way to make it work. And they did.

So Microsoft maintains a hold on the new PC market. Along comes the mobile devices starting with Apple's iPhone and iPad. Apple did a fantastic marketing and customer service job to get their devices adopted and it worked. It's also worth noting that Apple's devices run on FreeBSD, a form of UNIX, but that's another article. Even Apple didn't see the locomotive that is Android, coming.

Android is an open source operating system. It's free for anyone to use and to adapt for their own business. When the first Android phone, the G1 came out, I got one as soon as I could do it. The G1, combined with Gmail, freed me from any need for a Windows box at home. No longer did I need to concern myself with syncing mail and contacts with my phone. That is done over the air.

The G1 was just the start. Android went from activating a few thousand phones a day a few years ago to far more than a million phones a day today. In every sense of the word, it is a commercial success. Android runs on Linux, and comprises more than 75% of the phone market. How did Microsoft miss that one?

On tablets, Apple was the first mover. Their iPad devices sold very well and were a commercial success. Microsoft was nowhere to be seen in the tablet space and both Apple and Microsoft missed the threat of Android. Android tablet sales are closing in on 60% market share and are starting to bite into Apple's share. How did Apple and Microsoft miss that one, too?

Apple and Microsoft both missed the server market, too. For years, Linux adoption has been rising in the server space. Google, eBay, Amazon, PayPal, you name it, they're all using it. Linux scales because it's free. There is no way that any of those companies could succeed running Windows. If they tried, Microsoft would just jack up cost of the license to take their business down. Or Microsoft would make it harder for competitors to write applications that run on Windows.

Linux is taking over because of the freedom it offers to businesses. People may wonder how Linux works in the economic sense. 75% of the code contributed to Linux is by paid programmers. Businesses who contribute to the Linux kernel code include IBM, Google, and even Microsoft. They all realize that Linux allows everyone to play on an even field. Linux has become the ultimate utility for computing.

Linux is constantly being improved, debugged and maintained by an enthusiastic horde of programmers working around the clock, worldwide. It now supports more hardware than any other operating system. It has a stable programming interface that is open for all to see. There are no secrets in Linux.

Linux market share is making a huge appearance in job postings. Many System Administrator job posts now require Linux experience. Pundits are saying that if you're in IT and you don't know Linux, you will become irrelevant in 5 years. Linux knowledge is becoming a requirement in most IT shops. How is it that most schools are not using Linux on the desktop in K-12 schools? Free promotions from Apple and Microsoft. Free as in beer, not free as in freedom.

Does anyone seriously believe that Microsoft or Apple can keep up with the rest of the world in computing? I don't.
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