Can Apple clear the way for the Linux desktop?

by Doc Searls

That's the question that occurs to me as I read this piece in Roughly Drafted. It's about how Apple is kicking Microsoft's butt at the high end of the desktop market, and how Microsoft seems to be bumbling its way out of desktop hegemony anyway. Linux is mentioned only twice in this long piece, but the harbingery of the references are significant. Here's the enclosing quote:

Combined with the dominance of the iPod over devices using Microsoft's PlaysForSure, the imminent goring of Windows Mobile by the iPhone, and the shift of support across the industry from Windows to Linux in servers, the days of Microsoft's monopolistic grip on the desktop are winding down.

Apple doesn't have to take a majority share of the desktop market to win, it only needs to take the most valuable segments of the market.

Once that happens, Microsoft will be forced to choose whether it wants to battle Mac OS X for control of the slick consumer desktop, or repurpose Windows as a cheaper, mass market alternative to Linux in corporate sales.

And, at some point, consumer sales as well.

Because Apple will never make a cheap desktop. And Microsoft OEMs will at some point break clear of their exclusive partnerships with Redmond. The market will demand nothing less — as Glyn Moody has been pointing out here lately.

Thanks to the work of free and independent developers of all sorts, the sum of all device drivers and applications for Linux desktops will inevitably reach a tipping point. Dell or HP or Lenovo or some other company will start making cheap Linux-branded desktops and laptops that are easy to use and well-supported. nVidia and ATI will follow Intel and AMD in the march toward the marketplace.

Phones will follow. Because Apple will also never make a cheap and open phone. But they will help open the market for one. Just like they're opening the market for cheap and open desktops by breaking Microsoft's hold on the high end.