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The State Of The Personal Computer

Introduction

“Everyone should switch to Windows Vista, but wait until SP1.”

“This year, Linux will reach the mainstream desktop.”

“The number of Macs at major universities is almost at 50%.”

It doesn’t matter whether your favorite operating system is Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux or you want a computer that just works—technology pundits are always writing about the “next big shift.” Every year, the predictions are the same: Windows users are frustrated, Linux/MacOS will take over. During the final months of 2008, we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the state of personal computing and consider the future of each platform.

Indeed, 2008 is already shaping up to be a year of milestones. Microsoft Windows Vista reached SP1 status, making it the choice of new PCs across the board; AMD’s Radeon line once again became competitive against Nvidia’s recent GPU dominance; and the launch of Intel Core i7 marks the chip giant’s first major design change since the original Core Duo launch.

This has also been a year of transition and change for Apple Mac OS X and Linux. The release of Apple’s new unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro has created new interest in potential “switchers,” while Linux has seen its most mainstream success to date with the growing popularity of netbooks.

The question is: what will 2009 look like? Will Microsoft’s market share continue to erode after the lackluster release of Windows Vista and rising threats of malware? Will Mac OS X users still be willing to pay an “Apple Tax” and benefit from the relative lack of malware? Will Linux’ success with netbooks open the way for The Year of Desktop Linux?

For the record, I’m a user of all three operating systems. By this, I don’t mean “I’ve installed this OS or that one before.” I was predominantly a Windows Vista user, although I’ve switched to OS X 10.5 Leopard for my notebook and primary PC, leaving Vista on a HTPC only. My research workstation ran IRIX 6.5 from 2001 to 2004, and since 2005, I’ve done my work on Linux, beginning with Vector Linux, then SuSE, and now Fedora Linux.

  • Linux share is down to 0.7% in october
    Anonymous prediction for 2009 - 0.3%
    Reply
  • lamorpa
    Thanks for typing some numbers in your message that either you or someone else pulled out of the air. I'm going to make up some numbers like 2% and 2.4% in 2009. How's that?
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    110% in 2009 and about 150% in 2010
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    "For the average consumer, the transition to 64-bit means a more stable operating system." Kinda amusing! Ye I know vista 64 is a lot more stable than vista 32, but at least at my place, that's still not very stable. My ati graphics driver frequently crashes and has to be recovered by vista - good thing the recovery works, so I just have to sit back and wait - don't even have to reboot or restart wow or the movie that was running etc. May want to rewind a bit though :) But still - it DOES crash, and it takes more time booting than 32 bit on my system (probably the raid drivers fault), and neither my e-tech nor my logitech webcam works with 64bit (the e-tech does with 32 bit).

    So more stable? perhaps, but certainly not in my home.
    Reply
  • radnor
    You are correct about linux. But i should add one thing. WINE.

    It is getting better every version that launches, but still needs a lot of love. Wine use should be simple and stealthy. That is, put a x86 windows cd, and wine detects and pulls out a auto run. You get the idea.

    when that happens Linux will check mate Win/OSX. Compiz/Fusion is already prettier than OSX (and with great promises) and the system is much safer. And faster.

    Lets wait and see.
    Reply
  • I think the future will be about virtutalization of machines and applications. If we had a low level virtual OS that supported a standard UI then any machine or application could be installed on it. That is you could have a single look and feel while running Windows, Mac, Linux, or other OS's or applications.
    Reply
  • A very good article, but I found it odd that you believe OS X to be the most secure operating system. In the pwn2own contest recently, OS X was compromised in only 2 minutes. Vista fell a day later to a flaw in 3rd party software. Linux didn't fall.
    Reply
  • I still laugh every time I see the "I'm a mac" commercials on TV.

    Mac is comparing itself to windows OS or rather they should be. The Apple community is content believing that PC(Personal Computer) means Windows. They simply don't know the difference. Note to mac users: Macs are PCs also. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_computer

    Also, listen to the music in the background. It's lullaby nature appeals to the mentality of Mac users as does the original color pallet 'box of crayons' in the system settings. They didn't design it that way by accident.

    That's why Mac users love to boast about the commercials and their computers. Basic - ignorance is bliss.

    It's not your fault though. It's not like personal computers have been widely available since the late 1970's but you haven't bothered to take one class on them right? You haven't?! That's a pity and thank you.

    It's people like you who keep the entire PC(yes you too) technical community employed.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    radnorYou are correct about linux. But i should add one thing. WINE.It is getting better every version that launches, but still needs a lot of love. Wine use should be simple and stealthy. That is, put a x86 windows cd, and wine detects and pulls out a auto run. You get the idea.when that happens Linux will check mate Win/OSX. Compiz/Fusion is already prettier than OSX (and with great promises) and the system is much safer. And faster.Lets wait and see.
    Dunno about all below the wine, as I don't use linux for anything other than firewalls. But I don't think wine will ever get to a level that allows linux to replace windows. Mac OS has a chance - but only if they somehow can make game developers compile mainstream games for the mac.

    Though the article in general is very well written, I still find it fails on one simple aspect. Gaming. Every single pc I've built in the past 5 years was expected to play pretty much any non-top-tier game. Ie. not crysis, but if hugo or pixeline, or any other childrens game, was shipped with some magazine or put on discount, the people I built the computers for, expect that the software will work. That can't be realized on a mac unless it runs windows - at which point there's no reason to buy the more expensive mac.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    KamujinA very good article, but I found it odd that you believe OS X to be the most secure operating system. In the pwn2own contest recently, OS X was compromised in only 2 minutes. Vista fell a day later to a flaw in 3rd party software. Linux didn't fall.
    If we imagine a future version of flash, silverlight, java or any other internet based system could address the hardware in a pc via a standard interface - like directx or opengl etc but on the actaul hardware, instead of on the gui. And without the programmer needing expert knowledge of the limitations of the features, then virtualization won't even be needed. Stuff would just run directly on hardware. A bit like a seamless window on a citrix system, but with the hardware being used locally, and the drivers being a bunch of software embedded in the hardware burried beneath the gui.

    But that probably won't happen for another 10 years, so windows is safe, even with a complete idiot at the wheel.
    Reply