Thoughts on Business Switching Windows Desktops to Linux Instead of Mac OS.

There’s an article on Roughly Drafted about a pilot program at IBM “designed to study the possibility of moving significant numbers of employees to the Mac platform.”

The article is a worthwhile read, and includes comments from users in the program, and what IBM’s next steps will be.

What I’m writing about is not RD’s article, or even the program itself, but rather a comment made by a user in the program:

“If the remote connection and Sametime issues are worked out, I think that Mac users can be productive in IBM. However, if I had to recommend a non-Windows setup, I would recommend Linux on a ThinkPad. I see the convenience and reliability of ThinkPad hardware as superior, and the Mac OS is still a proprietary OS that seems to require a Windows license for some tasks anyway. I don’t see enough of an advantage in the Mac OS to be worth the incompatibility issues when collaborating with my colleagues.”

Why focus on this one comment? Because it’s the kind that initially looks like a reasonable, devil’s-advocate type of argument. However, upon parsing it makes less and less sense. Let’s take this thing one line at a time…

“If the remote connection and Sametime issues are worked out, I think that Mac users can be productive in IBM.”

An admission that maybe the biggest issue is that some Windows Enterprise apps do not run natively on the Mac. Presumably, if they did we’d be all set.

“However, if I had to recommend a non-Windows setup, I would recommend Linux on a ThinkPad.”

Oops. The honeymoon in the first sentence is over. Apparenly it isn’t about the Mac, it’s about going “non-Windows”. But that’s not the same thing, and may betray a bias of the commenter.

The real head-scratcher is that surely the Enterprise apps that don’t work natively on the Mac don’t work on Linux, either. The commenter says not running these apps is a problem for Macs, but doesn’t mention the same for Linux.

“I see the convenience and reliability of ThinkPad hardware as superior,”

This is just an opinion. I liked the ThinkPads I’ve had in the past, and believe their reputation is good and well-deserved. However, Macs are no less so, and also have a good and well-deserved reputation. It’s not made clear how the user sees “superior” convenience and reliability away from Mac hardware.

“and the Mac OS is still a proprietary OS that seems to require a Windows license for some tasks anyway.”

This one is my favorite. At first blush it may seem like a reasonable argument. Hey, if we’re leaving Windows let’s go with something “free”. And if we need to pay for Windows anyway, then why mess with another OS? But what it really does is take a big Mac advantage (i.e., the ability to run native Windows apps) and tries to make it a disadvantage.

First, switching from Windows (especially in large corporations) is not as much about money as many people think — or as it should be. The IT budget for such licenses is pretty much on auto-pilot. If the money paid to Microsoft for licenses was really an issue, these companies would have gone with alternatives (especially in servers) long ago.

Second, what will be used to run the Enterprise apps on Linux? There are several fully-supported options on the Mac. In half a sentence the commenter blows off the Mac’s advantage as some sort of hindrance.

Third, even if “free”, there are costs associated with supporting any OS. In fact, initial price for the license is generally the smallest incurred cost over the life of a PC. (Remember, we’re not talking about servers here — which are more secure and fewer in number — we’re talking about desktops.)

“I don’t see enough of an advantage in the Mac OS to be worth the incompatibility issues when collaborating with my colleagues.”

What incompatability issues? If you’re running under Windows then presumably there are none, and even if running native Mac equivalents these can be few (it depends, and no specifics are given).

This seems the usual chest-beating about everbody running the same exact thing. Yet companies frequently ignore this. It’s not uncommon after a new product upgrade is available that files sent from an upgraded user don’t open correctly for a non-upgraded user. If the sender was on a Mac, the receiver might blame the computer. But if he’s on a PC it’s all about hitting up your IT group so you can get the upgrade, too.

It’s not my position that this particular commenter was an Apple basher or Microsoft zealot. I’ll just assume a typical user, and he or she was simply expressing a view and likely not thinking it through. The reason for this post isn’t to blast the commenter, but rather the comment itself. It’s a “sound bite” argument someone can put forth that sounds intelligent while others nod their heads in agreement without any critical thinking applied.

Advertisements

Wal-Mart Bails on gOS PCs in Stores. Well, That Didn’t Last Long.

What started here, ended here today. It took only two months.

You gotta love this:

According to a Wal-Mart spokesman quoted on AP, “This really wasn’t what our customers were looking for.”

Ya think? Linux is a geek OS. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the price is right, but geeks don’t tend to shop at Wal-Mart. What ever made them think this would play to their customer base in the first place?

The Microsoft Security Redefinition Campaign Rolls Onward.

ms_security.jpg

Just as they did at the 90, 180, and 270-day mark, Microsoft has cherry-picked and juggled statistics to arrive at the conclusion that Vista is more secure than XP, Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Mac OS X. Oh please.

That’s right, UNIX’s legendary reputation for security is all a sham — despite years of empirical evidence to the contrary. Vista is in fact the one, the true, perhaps even the only, truly secure OS. How could we have been so blind? Repent! Convert to Vista now.

In order to pull off this stunning revelation each quarter, Microsoft has to modify what might be considered reasonable measures of security. For example, attacks in the wild don’t play into it at all.

Luckily, some are calling Microsoft on their BS, but this thing will still get far more positive press (basically, just a repeat of Microsoft’s conclusions) than it deserves.

This is just reinforcement (for those who had forgotten) that Microsoft is still the 800-pound gorilla that can throw their weight around wherever they damn well please.

With all of Apple’s latest successes, there have been a few really stupid articles and discussion about how Apple is somehow the new Microsoft, has a monopoly, etc. That’s utter crap. Apple (and Linux) supporters would be well served to remember that they’re still only around 3% of the world’s computing platform. Microsoft still rules over 95%, still gets their press printed with little (or no) critical analysis, and still has the ear of most tech pundits and columnists.

I wrote about the Microsoft Security Redefinition campaign (MSRC) at the 180-day mark; that entire article is every bit as valid today. It appears MS will play this game every quarter, and continue to do so until enough people call them on this nonsense.

Windows SuperSite Has Fun With Headlines. So Do I.

winssblog.png

Paul Thurrott sometimes uses various headlines to take pot shots at Apple, so I just thought I’d chime in:

“Uncovering the missing Mac OS X applications.
Applications? All a real Mac user needs is a blog and at least one finger to write scathing remarks about Windows.”

Unlike a real Windows user like Paul, who needs three blogs (though Internet Nexus may be “closing“) and one Podcast to put forth his scathing remarks about Apple.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

“Apple vs. Linux: Which Will Win Disgruntled Windows Users?
I believe it will actually be Vista that wins them, but what the heck, let’s play Fantasy Land for a few minutes. OK, that’s enough.”

Talk about a fantasy. Mac OS X (and Linux) have already won many disgruntled users. Stories of users leaving Vista because the OS grass is greener elsewhere have been all over the place this year, and just keep coming. You have to wonder how long Paul is gonna keep his fingers in his ears crying “La la la la la, I can’t hear you!”

“Is there joy in hating Apple’s Leopard?
No, not joy. Just a sense of justice.”

Justice? What kind of warped logic must you apply to claim hating Leopard is some sort of justice? Warped thinking aside, Paul has apparently not noticed the trolling he and other MS shills have stooped to regarding Leopard has failed. No one believes it.

Leopard is still getting positive reviews (by itself, and compared with Vista), while Vista still gets howls of derision. And one doesn’t have to go back months to find bad press about Vista, the last month will do. It’s bad, and even Microsoft admits the impending first service pack won’t help with incompatibilities.

I guess this is why Paul and others had to start examining what went wrong with Vista, which I wrote about earlier. It’s funny because until a few days ago they would never have admitted anything was wrong in the first place. Since it’s clear Vista’s a dud despite their denials, I guess they figured the best tack was to start making excuses. Good luck with that.

Tech Headlines From The Last Week.

shapeimage_11.png

As I continue to fight off some sort of cold, or flu, or death, or whatever it is, it’s time for another review of recent headlines.

Leopard’s Translucent Menu Bar.

OK, I’m convinced I’m the only one who likes the Leopard menu bar. Fine, sue me. As near as I can tell every Mac user on the planet but me cannot sleep and will not rest until the menu goes back to its (*yawn*) former self.

That’s fine, and as long as I can keep mine the way it is I’m all for people getting back to the Tiger bar if that’s what they want.

However, some of the arguments against the new bar are just silly. Not least of which is the one presented here. OMG! The “o” in an iTunes menu looks weird! How could Apple not have caught this in QA?! This is clearly proof that Apple doesn’t know what they’re doing!

Whatever.

Oh, and those of you who hate the new Dock, I disagree there, too. Oooh, there are multiple shadows on the iconc, it’s a travesty of design! Are you people only ever in a room with one light source? You got a spotlight on you all the time? I frequently see items with multiple shadows, and so would you if you were half as observant in the real world as you’ve been with the Dock.

That said, I believe the color of the Dock shelf is too light for the desktops I tend to choose, so I went with a darker color and love it. With or without the color change, Tiger’s Dock looks lifeless, flat, and so 2000 to me now.

Again, whatever.

MS Surface Delayed Until 2008.

BWAAAAAAHAAAAAAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!!!

Does this surprise anyone? The demo video Microsoft put together is known to be half-vapor anyway, and the technology is nothing new. But as I pointed out at the time, in the iPhone Apple’s technology is not just a different approach than Microsoft’s (and others’), but also a practical one. Since then, Apple has sold a million and a half portable, real-world touch-screen devices in the USA alone, while MS has had to delay their “big ass table”.

Linux Question And Answer.

I found this interesting because it’s a great example of outlining a lot of stuff that can never happen to claim what will make something a success. It’s like saying if Mercedes Benz could sell their cars for half-price they’d be more popular. So? It’s never going to happen.

When I look at this list, frankly, I see items 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12 as never happening. Indeed, don’t 3 and 12 run counter to Linux distros? Why tout “free”, then include licensed items? And you can’t ignore the “nerds” because they’re the ones that kept you (and are helping to keep you) alive. In fact, aren’t they the ones contributing the most code?

I think the items require a degree of agreement that the various parties required simply won’t ever come to.

Let’s face it, Linux’s primary feature for the consumer is that it’s “free”. But it’s only “free” if you happen to have a PC hanging around on which to install it. If you buy a PC with Linux pre-installed, where’s the “free”? Seriously. I can get a Vista laptop from HP or Dell, or a MacBook from Apple, or a Ubuntu laptop from System 76. The latter’s Gazelle, outfitted similar to a base MacBook, is $1,027. At only $74 more, the MacBook includes better software in iLife, a web camera, longer battery life, “N”-spec wireless networking, in a smaller, lighter package. (You can get better video and a webcam in the Gazelle for $200 more).

So, where is the “free”? The fact is the OS is not that great a cut of the computer pie at anything other than the dirt-cheap level, and anyone buying there is, frankly, not that particular about what they get.

Dell Price Advantage Disappearing.

Like a lot of Mac “news”, the price advantage shrinking between Dell and Apple has actually been true for a while.

At the mid- and high-end of desktops, Apple has been competitive with similarly configured PCs for a while. They’re not always the least expensive but they’re competitive, especially given their aesthetic and software advantages. I wrote about this in the areas of price and software shortly after I got my iMac.

Apple has a better price edge in their laptop line than in desktops. In other words, starting where Apple enters the laptop market (i.e, the base MacBook) they are immediately competitive with similarly configured laptops. This is different than desktops, where Apple enters the market with the Mac mini, which is not particularly competitive against similarly configured PCs.

Excellent Music Commentary: The Greenfield Report.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“The major labels will not rule the music landscape in the future. No way. They’re just too fucking stupid. Holding on so tightly to what they had, and wanting acts to give them ever more. It’s not about the disc business, or the t-shirt business, but the FAN BUSINESS! And the majors have disrespected fans FOREVER! Until the majors realize THEY made music free, they’ve got no hope.”

“Oh, what a long strange trip it’s been. And who do we have to blame? Industry strongmen Doug Morris and Zach Horowitz. Who not only refused to embrace Napster, but sued Bertelsman and everybody else involved. Winning the battle, but losing the war. Making some money now, but destroying the future.”

I still think the future of music business and sales is up in the air. People point to Radiohead’s online distribution of their album as the future, but I disagree. At least I disagree with the way Radiohead did it, which I considered to be as disrespectful to downloaders as the labels have been. Clearly, some artists want to dictate how their music is consumed, the customer be damned. Ultimately they will do no better than the labels.

I keep waiting for some label to approach Apple (or Amazon) with something truly different: DRM-free music, individual tracks no greater than 79 cents, albums no greater than $5.99. The fact is the biggest issue even with DRM-free music files is that $10 for an album is too much. If YourMusic.com can sell physical CDs (all of them) for only $6.99 each, and eMusic can sell downloaded albums for an average price of around $3.50, then iTunes and Amazon charging $9 or $10 is borderline robbery.

Movie Rentals May Be Coming To iTunes.

This is just a rumor but I thought I’d comment on it anyway. I am not a video guy, but I really think an iTunes video rental would be a great idea. People like to rent videos, and iTunes could pull it off nicely since I think the terms would be relatively generous, and we know the user experience would be nice.

Biggest question I have is if the content providers (which provide Apple squat for video sales) would be any nicer about rentals. They’re trying to kill Apple in the video market, so it will be interesting to see if they’d open their catalogs for rental. If not, then this cannot possibly be the success it could otherwise be; currently there’s simply not enough video content in iTunes upon which to build much of a rental store.

Google’s New Non-phone.

Wasn’t Open Social vapor enough? Now Google has formed a handset alliance and, no matter how you read it, it’s purpose is to allow Google to get ads all over your phone. Who really wants this?

And with 30 companies involved, how can the resulting designs avoid the “designed by committee” look and function? That’s never a good thing. Or, if they don’t all follow each other, then how can they avoid being just as different from each other and carrier-specific as they are now, so then what’s the point? It seems like a lose-lose to me (except for Google, of course).

It’s interesting how quickly second-rate or desperate players in the game will line up behind a big dog even when the big dog is attempting something that dogs don’t normally do. Why believe that Google can suddenly write killer software? Why believe users will have no issue with ads plastered on their phone? Why believe Google is even remotely interested in the alliance members and won’t ignore or drop those that don’t seem to be doing them any good?

With these phones at least a year off it means a lot of players who might possibly (though not likely) have competed with the iPhone are now tied up for a year. A year in which Apple will not stand still, that’s for sure. A year from now there will certainly be more than one iPhone model (and price point) to compete against.

Meanwhile, as we all wait to see the fruits of this alliance’s collective wisdom — and our phones covered with ads — keep in mind there’s at least one other attempt at advertising that’s even worse.

Microsoft Windows security revisited: One reason I’m Macintosh bound.

I wrote about Microsoft’s latest security ploy last month (link at the end of this article). This is a “prequel” to that piece…

For the six years prior to January of this year, these were the perceptions about Microsoft Windows’ security:

1) It is weak.
2) XP SP2 is going to fix it.
3) It is weak.
4) Internet Explorer 7.0 is going to fix it.
5) It is weak.
6) Vista is going to fix it.

Those are simple, but they sum it up well.

Security of Windows began to be exposed when they put it on a network in the days of Windows for Workgroups. The kernel for Windows NT was not written with network security as a priority (Microsoft was not strong in networking, remember the horrid IP stack introduced in WfW?), and since Microsoft was late to the Internet party (another network boat they missed) that priority didn’t change much for Windows 2000 and XP. The result? Over 110,000 virus in the wild — those that actually infected user machines — and malware running rampant. It is absolutely mandatory to run anti-virus and anti-malware/spyware software to protect a Windows machine. No one disputes this.

Microsoft and the IT community have done a good job of brainwashing people to think this is “normal,” and somehow no big deal. Indeed, some Windows users have it so ingrained into their heads they can’t imagine not doing these things, much to the delight of anti-virus vendors. Many IT security professionals and analysts work hard to scare-monger and BS there way around the fact that other OS’s don’t require this kind of “protection” and “maintenance.” Who can blame them? Their very livelihoods depend upon it!

That UNIX (or UNIX-like) systems such as BSD, HP-UX, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris and others do not require virus and malware protection tools is the biggest proof that Microsoft and IT are full of it. How many UNIX-based viruses in the wild, 700 in perhaps 30 years? Compared to 110,000+ in half that time it seems pretty clear to me. Microsoft apologists lately point to theoretical vulnerabilities or exposures developed in the lab as somehow equating to a bona-fide attack in the wild. Um, no. Only a fool would argue that the risk of attack on a Windows machine on the Internet, even with current anti-virus software, is the same as any of the aforementioned OS’s without anti-virus. The empirical evidence alone is sufficient to remove all credibility from anyone making this argument.

So how did Microsoft combat their security issues? For a long time, they didn’t. As I mentioned, for many years it had no special priority. Regular patches to keep up appearances, but no concerted effort to plug the holes in their leaky OS and Internet browser. Sooner or later, you’d think at least a few people would start to ask questions and demand a bit more. Well, it took years, but that finally did happen.

One reason Windows Longhorn (a.k.a. Vista) was late was that it was delayed for the effort expended by Microsoft on XP Service Pack 2. The infamous SP2 was almost exclusively a security patch, and a very large one at that. Microsoft was going to secure the OS and silence the critics springing up. It added the Windows Firewall, Security control panel, and many behind the scenes changes to help stem the security tide.

Further, Microsoft eventually took IE 6 and worked on it to improve its security. While initially slated for Vista, IE 7.0 was released to XP SP2 as a critical security patch, which tells you just how important Microsoft knew it was!

The problem is, even XP SP2 with IE 7.0 is not on the level of a UNIX-like OS in terms of risk of attack. Microsoft put on a brave face, but also claimed Vista would be much more secure. No big surprise — Microsoft always tells us the next OS will solve the problems of the current one — but what’s funny was Microsoft talking out of both sides of its mouth: “XP is secure, oh but Vista will really be secure.” Huh?

So how did Vista work out? Well, it did give us the vaunted UAC function, which tells you a lot of what you’re doing is “suspicious” so you can cancel or allow it. Like the user will always know! But, hey, if you allow it and your system is harmed, Microsoft is off the hook, which is what UAC was meant to do anyway. My previous article links to an article saying Vista and XP aren’t that different from a risk standpoint, here’s another article that agrees:

“So, what have we got here? An adequately secure version of Windows, finally? I think not. We have got, instead, a slightly more secure version than XP SP2…. The old problems never go away: too many networking services enabled by default; too many owners running their boxes as admins and downloading every bit of malware they can get their hands on. But MS has, in a sense, shifted the responsibility onto users…”

Vista’s already been nailed by the animated cursor bug that had claimed XP. With that one attack it’s had more in the wild in just six months than Mac OS X Tiger has since it was introduced over two years ago!

I’m not saying other OS users do not have to worry about security. That’s nonsense. Quite the contrary, any OS can be attacked, and I noted there have been UNIX attacks. But ultimately it’s about risk assessment. As a matter of cold fact, security is a strong reason to dump Windows and run an OS that doesn’t require third-party apps to help defend against attacks it’s not likely susceptible to in the first place. Put simply, I’m not moving to Mac OS X so I won’t have to worry about security, I’m moving to it because I do worry about security. In any rational risk assessment, Windows loses. The best “anti-virus” software doesn’t come from McAfee or Symantec, it comes from Apple, open source, Sun, etc. in the form of a more secure OS!

The jury is clearly out on Vista’s security, but given early results and Microsoft’s track record of delivering a secure OS, I wouldn’t put my money on it. Clearly, other people are not putting their money on it either, which is why Microsoft had to take another tack in their security propaganda, attempting to redefine how to measure it, which brings us full circle to my previous article

A look at Computerworld’s article on Net Applications’ market share data.

Computerworld has an article that tells us Vista use has grown while Mac OS X has remained flat.

The majority of new PCs sold since the end of January have Vista on them, yet Computerworld seems genuinely excited that Vista’s browser use has increased rather rapidly:

“According to Net Applications, in June Windows Vista accounted for 4.52% of all systems that browsed the Web, up from January’s 0.18%. Vista has grown its usage share each month since its release to consumers Jan. 30, hitting 0.93% in February, 2.04% in March, 3.02% in April and 3.74% in May.”

In other news, the sun rises in the East. Who didn’t see this coming?

“If Vista’s uptake trend continues, it should pass Mac OS X in Web usage share by the end of August.”

Who doesn’t see this coming either? It’s meaningless. But let’s worry about that headline when it’s plastered on every tech journal in another month or so. For now, let’s focus on the Net Applications data itself…

Where is Vista’s share coming from? And how are Microsoft and Apple doing long-term in share growth? A review of the data shows that Vista is taking its share directly from Windows 2000 or XP and not affecting the Mac (the CW article acknowledges this as well). Further, the data shows that Microsoft is actually losing browser share.

To understand how, we’ll first see how Windows (2000, XP, and Vista) and Mac OS X (PPC and Intel) have done over time in this arena. Since Net Applications’ data goes back 12 months, we can examine their one-year change:

Windows:
Combined Windows OS in July, 2006: 90.39%
Combined Windows OS in June, 2007: 90.46%
One-year growth: .001%

That’s flat. No growth despite the fact that Microsoft’s best OS shot was released six months ago. Best that can be said is that it appears no share was lost.

Mac:
Combined Mac OS in July, 2006: 4.29%
Combined Mac OS in June, 2007: 6.00%
One-year growth: 40%

A 40% increase over 12 months. Pretty impressive growth. This bears out what sales stats have shown us for a while (but Apple haters continue to deny): The Mac is outstripping PC sales. Something seems funny, though. If the Mac grew while Windows stayed the same, at whose expense did the Mac get its share growth? Let’s look a bit deeper…

But wait, there’s more!
While the above would be good enough news for Apple (and unimpressive for Microsoft), there’s something even better. You need to look a little deeper in the data, where Microsoft would probably rather not go. Click on the data for July, 2006 and you’ll see additional detail that includes the following:

Windows 98: 2.68%
Windows ME: 1.26%
Windows NT: 0.79%
Windows 95: 0.05%

That’s another 4.78% for Microsoft, so they really had 95.17% a year ago. I wonder why they didn’t trumpet this fact? I think I can tell you why. Let’s examine the detail for June of this year:

Windows 98: 1.14%
Windows ME: 0.66%
Windows NT: 0.59%
Windows 95: 0.02%

Uh oh. That’s only another 2.41%, making Microsoft’s current total 92.87%. So Microsoft was not flat for the year, they lost 2.3 percentage points. Oops.

Where did Microsoft’s share go? Obviously, almost all of it went to the Mac (Linux gained a few tenths of a point). People are leaving the older Windows systems for the Mac, not for Microsoft’s latest and greatest. Good news for Apple.

Computerworld wanted to make this all about Vista, but that’s silly as long as its eating its own. I don’t know how much can be gathered from browser usage stats, but whatever you can glean about growth from these numbers certainly favors the Mac and does not bode well for Microsoft.

Linux to stand together against Microsoft bullying.

In a previous post, I wrote that the Linux community should not sit idle while Microsoft implies that Linux violates numerous patents, and could be sued for this.

Based on an article in Information Week, I’m happy to say they will not be idle at all:

“Touch one member of the Linux community and you will have to deal with all of us,” Linux Foundation director Jim Zemlin warned Microsoft in a column that appeared May 25 on the BusinessWeek “Viewpoint” slot of its Web site.”

Good for them! And the best part of all:

Labeled the foundation’s “formal” response to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith’s statements earlier this month, the column suggested that the foundation was prepared to step in with countervailing patents if Microsoft took action against anyone.”

As mentioned in my post, it’s likely Microsoft has some patent violations of their own. Kudos to the Linux group for letting Microsoft know that patent suits can go both ways.