Friday, February 16, 2007

Apple and Linux in Proportion

Or why Bigfoot can clean the floor with Mac and Linux.

About 18% of the US population believes that Bigfoot and Nessie will eventually be found. Only about 3% have chosen to believe the marketing claims around the Macintosh and Linux operating systems. If the Internet was a level soapbox, we would see six times more buzz on Bigfoot and Nessie as we do on Mac and Linux. That means that there would be 44.7 blog posts about animals that are quite possibly imaginary for every one post about the Linux operating system.

Or if you took all the Mac and Linux people and organized a tug of war against all the people that think that the moon landing never happened, the moon landing people would win. By a lot. It wouldn’t really be a contest because the Mac and Linux people, again, make up about 3% of the operating system market and the “Moon landing was faked” crowd are double that number or 6% of the US population.

Just a note: I know that I'm playing a little fast and loose with these numbers, but I'm making sure that I'm coloring inside the lines. If you double all the Mac and Linux numbers and halve all of the rest of the numbers, these points would still be valid.

Africa has about 3% of world Internet usage - again, a little more than Mac and Linux users combined. Assuming that all Mac and Linux people participate on the Internet we can get a feel of what the relevant contribution their percentage of people should feel like. All the packets that go through the network backbones that address African issues do not begin to compare with Mac and Linux packets. By the way, African Internet usage is up 625.8 percent this year. Apple and Red Hat don't even dare to dream of that level of growth, but it is out there.

Assuming that the Internet is a truck and not a series of tubes, Mac and Linux users can be represented by a large stuffed animal flopping around the empty bed. Or if we want more of a "series of tubes" like example, think of draining only a gallon of water from a very full bathtub. Oh, and Chicago has about 3% of the US population. Five percent, which is roughly twice the number of people that make up Mac and Linux users, think that The Da Vinci Code is real. Globally, 5% of people online have a blog. Three times (13%) as many people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to kill JFK than use Mac and Linux operating systems. On a much more sobering note, roughly the same percentage (12.5%) of the U.S. population is living at or below a subsistence level.

The world is not how I would have it. And Ok, so the internet is not a level playing field and never will be. Returning to levity, I know that there is no way you could get Macintosh and Linux users together to do anything, much less all play tug-of-war. Having them pull the same direction at the same time would be unprecedented. Actually, it would be beyond amazing if you could get even 50% of just the Linux users pulling the same direction. But this whole subject still bugs me.

I recently saw this quote in the Seattle Times, "Nobody makes a move at music, movie, computer, phone and consumer-electronics companies nowadays without first asking themselves, what would Jobs do?" Some of that quote I understand, but come on!

The buzz and respect Macintosh computers gets is unworldly. Although Microsoft is begrudgingly invited to the table, Apple will sit at the head and get all the attention. This is like the President of the USA running everything past the mayor of Chicago. (Maybe this explains a lot!) Why aren't Macintosh users treated like the "Moon Landing was Faked" crowd? How come subcultures that are four or five times larger in size than the Mac people get a thousand times less respect?

I think I remember when I was working on Mac Word 5 that the Macintosh had about a 20% market share. Now they are sitting at 2.5%. Why on earth would anybody deify the company that lost that much market share? In 1980 Apple had a 26% market share. Radio Shack was more successful! So Apple has gone from 26% to 2.5%. Apple computers have always been a second or third ranked player. If I were a betting man, I'm not sure the smart money is on Jobs/Apple holding on to their iPod market domination. I mean, I hope they do. I have nothing against Apple (well, one thing from the Mac Word days) and I absolutely worship the Apple marketing team. How on earth can they keep their company as the top PC go-to-guy?

When I was four years old I started on a grand quest for fairness. Although I try, I haven't ever been quite strong enough to stop it. I know this isn't how the world works, but still, it just doesn't seem fair that Macintosh users have the status level of cheerleaders instead of conspiracy nuts. Everyone of their PC versus Mac guy commercials make me grind my teeth. For 20 years Apple's battle cry has been "Apple good, PC suck". Isn't it time that they stand on their own? Win or lose the debate on what is great about the Macintosh OS alone, not just as a warped mirror of the PC. There is a market of people that will buy anything other than Windows; the size of that market seems to be around 2.5%. Apple used to be about more than that.
And as far as Linux users go, the real ones that I've met really have been conspiracy theorists. Many of them seem to be united against Microsoft rather than for something else. But I have to say that I haven't really spent too much time thinking about them. With 0.4% of the market share, I'm not quite sure why I should. OK, yes, I had to play with the technology and keep my fingers in the pot. And also I had to do some research when what I was hearing and what I was seeing became very different. Windows Servers lead Linux Servers with nearly 20% more annual uptime. This is because of, according to the Linux people, bad documentation. It bothers me that Linux users talk about their bright new and shiny OS. Anybody can look it up and see that GNU came out the same year as MS-DOS 3.0 and Linux came out the same year as Windows 3.1. Between all the hype and hate speech, they just lost me somewhere. A part of me used to root for them in that cute underdog kind of way, but now it just seems sad.

So big bad Microsoft doesn't need me to stand up for them. With a 97% market share they don't need to stand up for themselves. I suppose that explains why Mac and Linux users can take on the airs that they do. Microsoft will never squash these two systems because it is in their best interest for them to have at least a tiny bit of competition to show to the monopoly committee. Nobody will ever accuse Microsoft of really being fast to market on the bleeding edge, but they are good competitors and have done a reasonable job improving people’s computer life inch by inch. But that doesn't make me feel better either.

I was there when the big operating system wars were happening. MS-DOS and CP/M were slugging it out with graphical interface operating systems. Macintosh OS and Windows and IBM's OS/2 were at each other's throats. More innovation happened in one year back then than in five years now. (God I sound old!) OK, I know some of that was because there wasn't the fragile user installed base that there is now, but I don't think that would stop a lot of innovation if the people behind these operating systems were competing against each other claw and hoof.

I want wonderful things. I want my computer to reinvent itself with more than just another slightly buggy "Web 2.0" (what ever that really means) application. The operating system is like the foundation for everything. It is all if the utilities that run in to my house all put together. This should be bigger than it is now, it should be more exciting and it should be like something I would read in a science fiction story.

Speaking of Science Fiction, sometimes I feel slightly miffed that I don't have the flying car that was promised to me by Disney World's Horizons. But it does seem like if I can't have OS innovation or a flying car or even a jet pack, can we at least get rid of the PC / Mac TV commercials?

Click here for a reasonably sized picture of the following chart.


Anonymous said...

One time I was shopping for a new computer at CompUSA. I was looking at the Mac's, trying to think of a reason that would justify paying triple for a machine that really doesn't do anything the cheaper machine would do, when this young lady stood beside beside me and said "Bill Gates should be consigned to the 6th circle of Hell."
And I thought to myself, "What an odd thing to say."
Then I moved away from her, back to the PC section where I belonged.
The 6th cirle of Hell? What was wrong with her? You are not far off in comparing the Apple folks to Moon Landing Deniers and Big Foot Believers.

Brandy Galos said...

Thank you for your comment. I've known a few of those kinds of Mac users.

Another stat that I would have liked to have used was from "Caffeine is not removed completely using any of these methods, but under federal regulations in the United States, caffeine levels must not be above 2.5 percent of the product in order for a product to be labeled 'decaffeinated.'"

So the percentag of Mac users = the precentage of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee.

It's like saying that Mac users really shouldn't count at all on in the real world.