Microsoft is recognizing Linux’s threat. Apple is recognizing Linux’s strengths. Linux is, as always, trying to do everything at once and being moved by the tides of other platforms and waiting on the wings until something has been reached to swoop down, take a look and imitate (and usually enhance it in the process, although sacrificing usability and looks..:) it the best it can. What will happen next year?
For the first time, it seems, Microsoft is genuinely worried about Linux.
I myself like Linux a lot, because it has allowed me to save tons of money, but I like it as much for being free as for being a Unix. If the whole Open Source had started in Windows I’d probably wouldn’t advocate so much for it, as the platform does not give me any confidence (and since I know the technical differences, no sales pitch, as well structured as it could be, will convince me otherwise).
Everything said and done, I’d also have to admit that Linux is a great copycat and has great minds working on it, building on top of what it copies, but has always remained, in my mind, as a bunch of people with incredible powers of understanding and coding skills but zero innovation and imagination.
Linux is a great platform, and I’d never choose anything else for my servers (except, maybe, MacOSX) if I had the choice, but by and large, the Linux coders are always imitators, never innovators. Samba is a great and flexible WIndows Networking implementation, all graphic interfaces are copies of either Windows, OS/2 or MacOS, all word processors, spreadsheets and presentation programs try to emulate MS Office in one way or another.
Most of the time, linux’s implementation of a feature implies enhanced capabilities (Evolution, Linux’s premier graphical e-mail program, bears more than a casual resemblance with Outlook, yet it builds on top of that to include tons of better or increased features) compared with the originally imitated product but most is, in the end, an imitation (at least it’s not usually one that pales in comparison of the original).
I would never want Linux to exist as the sole OS out there, because innovation would die. Most Linux geeks are great at imitating and enhancing, most are great at troubleshooting, debugging and coding efficiently. Most of them can see a good idea when there is one but for each original idea in Linux there are 50 that are just imitations, spawned by the very same incompatibility that exists between Linux and other platforms («I want to use this platform, but I don’t have this program, so I make a clone of this program and I can have both, while at it I add interoperability between this and that other program over there…», etc).
This «imitation by envy» is something that is becoming obvious now, with MacOSX (I know, I know, bear with me). Flocks of Linux and other free unices are taking a second look at the mac platform because they just realized they’ve done things «too» well, and that means they are able to use all the tools they are used to in their Unix environment (all terminal-based tools, most Xwindows tools as well) but they don’t have to put up with crappy interfaces and clunky, ugly, grey cloned PC boxes.
They have realized they can use MacOSX and use Microsoft Office properly (not un-emulated by WINE, or running OpenOffice and trying to convince themselves it’s better), they can use MSN Messenger, ICQ, etc. And for all the programs that do not exist for the mac (not few, I should add) they can easily use the open source alternative in the same platform. No reboot. No Boot loader. No special compilations.
I have *NO* idea what the future holds for the three platforms. It *IS* a fact Unix users are looking at MacOSX with greedy eyes. It *IS* a fact Microsoft is incresingly weary of both Linux and MacOSX. Apple has realized that, suddenly, it’s intended market is *NOT only the new users who know nothing about computers, but also the power users who have outgrown Windows. Apple is trying to hold both ends ot the user spectrum, Microsoft wants it all and doesn’t like to share. Apple has distanced itself from MS more and more (releasing tools of their own that directly compete with MS’s tools or publicly despising MS’s practices).
It’s going to be interesting… Next year, I mean. Things will probably happen that may change the way the big three see things (it may take more for users, on average users do not care much about all this stuff). Anything from Apple helping Linux coders port things over to MacOSX officially (it has happened from time to time in the past) to Microsoft releasing Open Software initiatives (MS already has a SourceForge-like website where it hosts open developing for Windows) to MS developing for Linux and considering focusing a little more in their apps and a little less in their OS.