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Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:24 am

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Move over Linux: iOS is now number 3
By John Rizzo
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Decades of predictions of Linux becoming a standard user platform were put to rest this summer, not by Windows or Mac OS X, but by the iPhone. Apple's iOS for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad has surpassed Linux as a web-browsing platform, according to a report from Net Applications, a web analytics company.

The company said that iOS share of web traffic exceeded that of Linux beginning in July. In August, iOS generated 1.13 percent of all web traffic, while Linux fell to 0.85 percent. Oddly, iPhone-as-a-browser-platform growth seems to be coming at the expense of Linux. iPhone grew at the same rate that Linux is falling, according to the report. In August, iPhone was where Linux was at in May, and vice versa. Ironic, considering that Linux runs a large portion of the hardware that serves the Web. Windows is still king, with 91.3 percent of web traffic. Mac OS X is next at 5 percent of web traffic. (Android was only 0.2 percent, and Blackberry 0.09 percent.)

There are all kinds of indicators to look at to gauge the platform wars, including quarterly sales numbers and hardware market share, sales of software, and surveys indicating intent to buy. But web traffic is an increasingly important indicator, since it's the main thing most users do. In fact, just a few years ago some pundits believed that this fact would cause Linux to grow. For instance, three years ago, David Risley of PCMech exected the advent of web-dominated computing to grow Linux.

"With the move toward web-based software, and the valiant efforts of projects like OpenOffice and Firefox, I think the scene is shifting toward open source and away from the days of Microsoft as the dominant force."
It didn't turn out that way.

As late February 2009, Steve Ballmer said that Linux was a bigger threat to Microsoft than Apple. Of course, that was before Apple surpassed Microsoft in net worth -- largely due to Apple's iOS platform.

If Linux ever had a chance to become a mainstream user OS, it was in 2003-2004. While the market waited for Microsoft's years-late Longhorn OS, PC software and hardware makers were looking to fill the void. In 2003, InfoWorld reported that IBM, Novell, Red Hat, and Sun, as well has PC makers Dell and HP, were getting to make major pushes into Linux as a desktop while waiting for Longhorn. For instance:

[Novell will] more than double the number of engineers working on the Ximian Desktop and will focus on improving the Gnome desktop environment, the OpenOffice suite, and Mozilla browser.

But Longhorn turned out to be Windows Vista, which even Microsoft regards as a flop. Yet,l Linux as a desktop went nowhere. Enterprise organizations simply continued using Windows XP, which worked just fine, thank you very much.

That fact that iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches are number three, demonstrates that Apple's basic assumption of what users want is correct, and Linux-backers was wrong. Apple assumed users want a computing device that you turn on and run, like a car. Mac OS X is less complicated than Linux, and iPhones (and Androids) are simpler to use than Macs. Meanwhile, for nearly 20 years, Linux developers held on to the original vision of the Internet as the principle for Linux, open to all and free.

But users (and IT support departments) aren't interested in wresting with printing problems that require reading man pages to solve. Users don't want to have to know what a man page is. Even enterprise values a low-technical expertise for computer users. Linux and OpenOffice are free, but how much will the Linux platform cost in terms of tech support handholding of users?

Even Bill Gates was concerned about the user experience. Bill Gate's 2003 email venting frustration about failing to install MovieMaker in Windows is entertaining, but also indicative of what users want:

So after more than an hour of craziness and making my programs list garbage and being scared and seeing that is a terrible website I haven't run Moviemaker and I haven't got the plus package.

The lack of attention to usability represented by these experiences blows my mind.
Another reason that iOS surpassed Linux in Web traffic is that users aren't using Linux to download video on demand. This just shows that what people are using computers for at home and work is changing. Just as the computer hardware continues to evolve. From mainframes to desktops to notebooks to phones and tablets, computers have been continually shrinking and requiring less technical ability from the user. Linux just doesn't fit in these trends.

iOS is a computer operating system. The iPad is a computer, but so is the iPod Touch. I fully expect iOS or its successor to surpass Mac OS X sometime in the not-to-distant future and become the number two generator of web traffic. Windows is still pretty safe at this point.

(To read this story at MacWindows:

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John Rizzo

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OS X Mountain Lion Server for Dummies
By John Rizzo

Simplifies the installation, configuration, and management of Apple's OS X Server software. Support Mac and Windows clients for file sharing, email, and directory services; Install software to your iOS devices and Macs. Incorporate a Mac subnet into a Windows Active Directory domain, manage Mac and Windows clients, and configure security options, and more. Click here for more.

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