Could Linux Ever Replace Mac OS X?

I’m not a conformist. Being a Mac user puts me in the minority of computer users. But I could go one step further. With my foot firmly in the door of Open Source software, would an Open Source operating system be the next step forward – or would it be a step back?

I have dabbled with various Linux versions, and the experiences have been both hard and exciting.

I use the Mac not just because of my disgust with Microsoft operating systems, but because Mac OS X is a better operating system. It’s faster, smoother, and extremely reliable.

We Mac users have long had to put up with the reality that few games would be developed for our platform – although recent years and the rise in popularity of OS X is changing this – and that we had to buy “overpriced” Mac compatible hardware and peripherals. This also has changed since Mac OS X was introduced, and now we have more options than ever, with big software developers and hardware manufacturers finally sitting up and taking notice of Mac users.

Common Ground

Based on a Unix subsystem, Mac OS X shares a common ground with Linux, and users of both will see similarities.

Linux is one step further away from giant money grabbing corporations. With free versions – both financially free and free as in open sourced – of numerous distributions (“distros”) available offering more hardware compatibility than ever, is Linux finally a viable alternative to mainstream operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X?

The decision isn’t an easy one. The gracefulness, reliability, and perfection of Mac OS X makes it hard to be swayed to an alternative, but the call of something new and exciting – and still quite “nerdy” but fully functional – begged me to try it out. After all, Mac users are used to hearing “you can’t do that on a Mac” from uninformed Windows users, so the cries of “you can’t do that in Linux” is nothing we haven’t heard before.

The fact that Linux started as a Windows alternative and has also developed into a Mac alternative shows there are a lot of people out there who are willing to invest time offering a free and possibly better alternative to Windows and Mac.

In answer to my question, “could Linux be an alternative to Mac OS X” (and also Microsoft Windows), I think it is, but….

Maybe One Day

Yes, there is a but. Linux has been in development since the late 1980s, and with many strains and distros out there, it might one day be something the average user could embrace. Ubuntu has done wonders for the Linux world, bringing it into the mainstream and making people who would have never looked at it otherwise give Linux at least a thought.

The new craze for tiny notebooks, known as netbooks, has also pushed Linux further to the forefront with Ubuntu and Xandros running on these tiny portables.

At present, Linux is still very technically minded. It has to become more user friendly, especially to those who already struggle with Windows or Mac, rely on technical support (both in terms of operating system and hardware), or rely on the knowledge of other people. Linux, as it stands at present, is a little beyond most users’ reach.

Linux is definitely not another BeOS, the ill-fated operating system driven by former Apple CEO Jean Louis Gassée. Linux is growing and becoming better each month. With the likes of Ubuntu making Linux a very simple but powerful alternative, and with some system retailers selling machines with Linux preinstalled, it is something to look into for the future.

For me, the free price tag is a huge plus point: You can try it and keep coming back to it without it burning a hole in your pocket. However, it needs to make serious progress for it to pull me away from the glorious Mac OS X.


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