How OS X Won and Linux Lost the Desktop

FedoraOnce upon a time, the Linux community believed that they had just as good a shot as Apple on the consumer desktop. Both had a good UNIX core and both were working vigorously on a beautiful GUI. What went wrong?

(Fedora 17 shown left.)

Several authors have weighed this week in on the storied path these two OSes have followed. Part of it was defection by talented developers to the Web. Part of it may have been the never ending string of distributions and different GUIs. Part of it was that the Linux community was too maverick and didn’t ensure backwards compatibility between evolving versions of the APIs. They were too starry-eyed.

You can kick off the discussion with “How Apple Killed the Linux Desktop…” and then move on to “What Killed the Linux Desktop. Here’s an excerpt from the latter.

When OSX was launched it was by no means a very sophisticated Unix system. It had an old kernel, an old userland, poor compatibility with modern Unix, primitive development tools and a very pretty UI.”

One by one, Apple addressed these issues. With fanatical focus and plenty of patience, Avie Tevanian and then Bertrand Serlet improved each major component of OS X on a priority basis in a commercial environment, all the while avoiding the temptation to orphan the previous generation of apps. Miguel de Icaza writes, “So Linux was left with idealists that wanted to design the best possible system without having to worry about boring details like support and backwards compatibility. Meanwhile, you can still run the 2001 Photoshop that came when XP was launched on Windows 8. And you can still run your old OS X apps on Mountain Lion.”

Driving into the future requires a very clear vision about what’s important to customers and validating that at every stage of development. It was literally the tortoise and the hare. That’s how OS X won and Linus lost.

Tech News Debris

Dropbox, in the wake of a recent security snafu, has introduced 2-factor authentication. If you’re interested, here’s a handy tutorial by Dan Moren. The nice thing is that Dropbox, unlike Google, doesn’t require application-specific passwords.

Okay, how can I tie this next item to the Apple world? Okay, let’s try this. The Star Trek series has been an instrumental technology driver in our modern life, especially when it comes to tablets. There. Nailed it. With that, I can get on with this inspirational article reference. “Star Trek Fans Rescue Enterprise Bridge.” Afterall, some day, a starship designer is gonna need that prior art for patent litigation.

Kirk & tablet

Captain Kirk writes on his computerized tablet. Image Credit: Paramount

Recently, I’ve been writing about email on the Mac. Briefly, I’ve been sensing a certain restlessness on the part of some visionary developers. Namely, is Apple’s all there is? That’s all were gonna get? Here’s another response to that: “ Unibox - A New Take on the OS X Mail Client.” It’s time. Support your local visionary.

Meanwhile, Matt Milano, the author of MailForge, wrote to tell me that he’s retired from software development and thinks he’s found a good home for MailForge, a company, he said, that will give it the attention it deserves. You can find that email app now at Macsimize.

Here’s lesson #1,286 on why no one thinks like anyone else. “Connected-TV Users Prefer Ad-Supported Over Subscription, PPV.” It’s the ace up the sleeve of the cable and satellite industry and the salvation of the ad industry. It must give Apple researchers pause as they think about the future of television.

Technical Word of the Week (TWoW)

“Diworsification” (n.) The process of expanding your product line, presumably to increase revenue, and just making things worse.” Credit to Peter Lynch