I was at OSCON (the O’Reilly Media Open Source Convention) this week and saw the desktop of the future — and Microsoft should be scared.
I know, you think I’m going to talk about how next year will be the year of the Linux desktop — but I’m not.
What was surprising to me was the number of Macs at OSCON. They were all over. In fact, I commented on this to the person I was sitting next to in the Speaker Lounge on Tuesday, and he told me that he had counted them up — and 20 of the 26 people in the Lounge were using a Mac!
Now, I do believe that Linux is going to make a run at the desktop going forward. I addressed this in my newsletter this month, identifying the burgeoning netbook trend as a driver of Linux desktop adoption. The low price and limited hardware of netbooks makes Microsoft Windows a poor choice for this category — and this will only get worse as Microsoft deprecates XP in its attempt to improve Vista market penetration. While XP can be shoehorned onto a netbook with around 4 gig of memory, still leaving room for apps and data, Vista’s size precludes use for them. Moreover, the licensing cost of Windows represents too high a percentage of total system cost for it to be a palatable option for netbook manufacturers.
Consequently, most of the netbook manufacturers have turned to Linux for a lightweight, modular operating system. Netbooks will be the beachhead for Linux on the desktop.
Microsoft’s not going to go out of business any time soon, and it will continue to milk the mainstream commodity desktop market, but if I ran the company I’d be worried: top end power users are moving to the Mac, low end users are being drawn by the netbook phenomenon, making a squeeze on the middle almost inevitable.