Now, let's take a step back for a minute. Let's try to remember that from our current viewpoint the PC market is fairly fixed. Therefore, we can all talk about market share winners and losers and the fact that Microsoft owns somewhere around 90% of the market, and no one can break the monopoly, etc., etc. However, the market for PC's is, from worldwide vantage point, not fixed. There are many untapped markets; again, all those poor nations with poor people who are working very hard to no longer be poor nations with poor people. Microsoft is desperately trying to get into those markets with cheap Windows. Add to that their current advantage of Windows being the standard OS on the desktop, and they are well served and armed in their crusade to maintain their dominance in the marketplace. But, remember, we are also dealing with human nature and new markets with little money. So, why pay for cheap legit Windows when there is even cheaper and/or free Windows from the guy standing on the corner? The perception that Apple is too expensive has too long a history and is entrenched too well into the minds of many to make them a viable competitor to cheap and illegal Windows. Enter Linux, the only other serious threat to Microsoft and Windows in these new and poor markets. Linux is a favorite in Brazil and a serious contender in many a municipalities around the world. Cheap to free and favorable licensing. Of course, we should not forget about Apple. They will make inroads with market share gains in many countries where they already have a good foothold, which will slowly spill over into other countries (especially as price parity between Macintosh and Windows based systems is realized in both reality and perception). And, as other factors such as Windows/Office compatibility, freedom from viruses and other malware., and extreme ease of use (most everything just works), plus the added iPod halo effect, take effect, the Macintosh presence will grow into all markets. The Macintosh will be more prevalent in some places, while nearly invisible in others. But, in fact, their worldwide market share will grow and many of the old stigmas will fade into legend. I predict that in the next five (okay, maybe 10) years they will see themselves become, once again, a dominant player in the PC market, with a market share in the 20 - 30% range. Microsoft will continue to see shipments of Windows increase in the ever expanding marketplace, although their market share will decrease to somewhere around 60% by the time Apple has that 20 - 30% share. Which leaves somewhere between 10 - 20% of the OS market open to someone. And that someone would be Linux.
Will Linux be able to actually gain that market share, or will Microsoft and Apple eat Tux for lunch? Of course Linux will grow in market share, it will survive on the desktop in both homes and offices. Even if usability never gets better. People want an alternative to the expensive proprietary systems from both Microsoft and Apple. People want a secure system, one in which they needn't spend hundreds of dollars a year (especially when they don't earn much) on extra security measures that eat resources and need constant updating. Poor countries need a solid, stable, secure system that runs well on older hardware and is inexpensive or free to obtain. But, in order for Linux to actually reach that 10% point (remember, the Mac right now is only somewhere around 3 - 5%) usability absolutely needs to be on par and/or better (mostly better) than Windows. Forget about the Mac. Apple is ease of use. The best anyone else can hope for is to be firmly in the shadow of Apple. Now, what do I mean by usability? Well, the ability to fix things, everything, through a GUI environment. The command line is for geeks like myself and old schoolers (although, I do prefer a good GUI). The ability to switch from Gnome to KDE to Fluxbox to AfterStep to WindowMaker (you get my point) and have the identical desktop icon layout. The ability to plug in any hardware and have it just work (well, at least at the level of Windows). Inconsistencies fixed (hmm, no one is immune from that one). Windows compatibility on par with OS X. Many of these issues have been greatly resolved in just a couple of years. Many of these issues are still only perception, the fix already exists, the ease of use is already there. Some of these issues still need work. I leave it to the marketplace to decide what's what.
But, my point remains, Linux is today a viable alternative to Windows and OS X. Linux is an excellent environment for those with limited funds. The marketplace is not this stagnant, limited growth place, even today, and even with technology as pervasive as it has become. As the world becomes more advanced, as those nations that are behind the wealthy few gain wealth for themselves, the need and hunger for safe and secure computing will grow. The marketplace is still expanding. Apple and Linux are poised and ready for growth. Only Microsoft stands to lose market share in this new, expanding world. Apple's switch to Intel processors only stands to hurt Microsoft (the reasons for which many people have already touched upon). Cheap and free Linux only hurts Microsoft. It is the simple reasons of a globally unsaturated market, human nature, economic realities and needs, and security concerns that will fuel the growth of Linux. And, unlike with US politics, there is room for three viable platforms. To each their own.
Removed for privacy reasons; 6th August, 2007.
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