Mac In The Office

Business Week has a great write up on Macs in the office. Apparently more and more companies are becoming receptive of a dual platform environment, and more and more employees are requesting better computers (yea, I said “better”).

I’ve found consistently over the years that they are just more reliable requiring much less effort to keep running smoothly for years on end. I can’t recall a similar experience even with Windows XP, which is clearly the winner of the Windows family. Less time fighting the OS is more time being productive. Not to mention the improved usability just allows for more efficiency (ExposĂ© is still amazing).

I don’t think the reason for the rise in corporate popularity is so much about the usage of an Intel processor, but because of OS X. Most companies I’d venture won’t want to pay for dual OS (and emulation) since that bloats the cost of the workstation. Some obviously will, but not too many. The rise I’d say is mainly attributed to applications becoming more web based, meaning less proprietary software installs. All you need these days is an office suite (Office X, Google Docs) web browser (Safari or Firefox) and email (Entourage, Thunderbird, Apple Mail). Apple’s also made giant leaps in ensuring compatibility with other platforms such as NFS, SMB even Active Directory.

Linux is totally usable in the workplace, but lacks the usability and the sparkle to compete with Apple in this new open market thus far. Ubuntu’s made great strides, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Leopard’s polish.

Apple does however sorely need a mid-range line to compete further, and to enhance it’s business and consumer sales. Essentially an iMac but trading the built-in display for some expansion at the same cost as the iMac line. The result would be a pretty impressive line up. It likely wouldn’t kill Mac Pro sales since anyone currently spending $2,500+ is likely still going to be willing to drop that cash for the top models. It would likely impact Mac mini and iMac sales slightly, though it’s a reasonable trade-off. Apple would still have a hard time pushing it’s display’s to accompany those computers, due to Apple’s rather high price as opposed to a more generic Samsung or Dell, but they could easily introduce a lower end for general office use, and make the current models a higher class.

It will be interesting to see how Apple decides to go after this market share.

Installer Mess

Benjamin Smedberg has an interesting post on Ubuntu and it’s effort to be a provider of not only the OS, but the software around it. I think the ‘solution’ Ubuntu choose is really a workaround for a fundamental flaw in Linux. Getting software to run quickly and easily without intimate knowledge of the OS is tough at best.

By far the best out there, though not without it’s faults is Apple. Not only are many installs just drag/drop (though that is rather cool), but ones that do require an installer typically use Apple’s installer functionality, providing a very simple interface for the user. Most importantly when Apple switched to x86, they realized users don’t know/care what’s inside their computer, or about the differences in x86 and PPC architecture. The solution they came up with was “Universal Binaries” (similar to how FAT versions of applications were used when moving from 68k to PPC). At the end of the day, the user knows nothing. The software does the work. As good as Apple’s effort is, there is a flaw, uninstalling is not always the best. In most cases it’s just drag it to the trash, but there’s no undo for installed stuff like drivers.

Ubuntu would be best off pushing for the Linux community to follow a model similar to Apple with a few changes:

  • Encourage applications to ship in the same package, and encourage distributions to use the same package installation system. Just like Apple, the user will have a familiar and obvious way of adding applications to their computer.
  • This is the tough part: 1 download for most popular Linux distributions. So it doesn’t matter what version of ____ your running, you can just install and let the installer figure it out similar to Universal Binaries.
  • One up Apple by providing a “roll back” or uninstaller that will remove and restore to what the system was before the installation was done.

Installing software on Linux stinks. Ubuntu is much better than the rest, but I don’t like how you have to rely on Ubuntu in order for that to be the case. There’s a market for someone who can solve the problem. It’s a barrier between Linux and the general user. Until someone solves it, Linux will likely remain a niche product in the desktop market.

Ubuntu Live Trial

On Monday, I decided to see if Ubuntu’s Live CD was good enough to work for the week. I put the CD in, rebooted, and said “no Windows until Friday”. Surprisingly, it recognized all the hardware in my Thinkpad T43 (at least all that I cared enough about to notice), and actually did a good job. With 1.5GB of RAM in this monster, it was rather smooth once it loaded. My only gripe is that it didn’t have an easy way to save the session to a USB flash device on shutdown, and allow it to re-init based on that session next restart. If the Live CD was smart enough to do that, it would have been truly perfect.

OpenOffice did the trick, as did Firefox. Really had no issues at all. Printing worked, so did networking.

Live CD’s are definitely useful. Find a computer that doesn’t work in a lab? Just put in the CD, and you can use it without problems.

Really says a lot for Linux. Ubuntu is definitely a great distro, the best I’ve seen so far. Now if I had a bigger hard drive, I’d have a partition for it. Eventually I will… I hope.