Linux, MacOS, and Windows 7: Is the Future of the Desktop Google, Cisco or the iPhone?

The race is on to control the desktop, with the winner likely the player who eliminates the importance of the OS.
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This was an interesting week, Dell announced a series of desktop Linux advancements at Linux world, Lenovo stepped in to provide desktop Linux as well, Apple refreshed their iMac line to something less advanced than HP’s latest and Microsoft was not only all over LinuxWorld they were actually an honored guest.

I’ve been really thinking about the desktop of late. Windows Vista isn’t making much of a dent in the enterprise (which mostly seems to be saying “Windows XP is fine, leave us alone”). I think it’s time to really start looking at what the industry is signaling it wants. Strangely enough, I think what it wants is vastly closer to the iPhone than it is to anything else currently being sold, and that Google might actually get there first. (Though Microsoft still has the inside track).

Let’s take a look at LinuxWorld and desktop Linux, the new iMacs and Leopard, chat a bit about Windows 7, and look at what Google and Cisco appear to have in store for us.

LinuxWorld: Embracing Microsoft and Giving Desktop Linux a Chance

One of the strategies that Microsoft has used to great advantage is the strategy of embrace and extend. For some time they seemed to forget about what got them dominance on the desktop to begin with, and they were having a lot of difficulty with Linux. Certainly programs like “Get the Facts” were horridly flawed and seemed only to further accelerate Linux adoption. However, Microsoft has had a rather solid change of heart, and if you were at LinuxWorld you likely saw it in action.

They are actively embracing Linux and, for once, it seemed like Linux was embracing back. This could work for both sides, on Microsoft’s side it should allow them to move into more large scale server deployments, and for Linux it should provide for an easier path to the desktop. In both cases it gives IT buyers a less artificial choice between real alternatives as opposed to near religious beliefs.

In fact the near religious behavior I’ve come to know and hate about Linux and Open Source was largely unnoticed at LinuxWorld where people primarily seemed less focused on being Linux cheerleaders and more focused on making vendors actually prove they could do more than simply share code. Critical buyers help create better products. And if what I observed is any measure, the folks at LinuxWorld are likely going to be building some amazing things going forward. And, as strange as it seems, in that group is now Microsoft.

I still see one big problem for Linux on the desktop though. Red Hat is the most financially viable vendor, Novell has the best enterprise offering, and Ubuntu is the product we’d likely all prefer to use. Typically IT buyers are risk adverse and want one choice with all of the above, the financial stability of Red Hat, the product of Novell, and the user experience of Ubuntu.

However, in moving to Apple, I actually think they really want the user experience of the iPhone, and that is where Apple fell short with their new iMacs.

iMacs: Innovation by Intel

Apple has really been lagging on PC hardware of late. Their latest iMacs are basically old iMacs re-skinned so they reflect the advanced thermal efficiency of the new Intel platform. HP is actually closer to providing the iPhone experience. What is kind of funny is that when I point this out to Mac guys I get back something like “Steve Jobs says Touch is stupid on a PC.Watch this YouTube video and tell me if this isn’t something you’d expect on an iMac.

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