Apples Intel Desktop Move Threatens Linux Desktop, Longhorn

Opinion: And if the Linux desktop wants to play, it had better get a lot better, a lot faster.

Linux desktop and Longhorn developers suddenly have something in common: They should be worried, very worried, about Mac OS X coming to Intel processors.

The Mac community is in an uproar over Apple moving the Mac to Intel processors, but its the Linux desktop and Longhorn programmers who should be reaching for the aspirin.

Mac OS X is not only the best desktop interface for Unix-style operating systems, its the best desktop interface around—period.

Ive always known Mac OS X could run on Intel processors. Way back in 1993, I reviewed NeXTStep, one of Mac OS Xs ancestors, on a 66MHz 486DX2 with 32MB of RAM for PC Magazine. If NeXTStep could run on that, there was never any question in my mind that Mac OS X could run on todays Intel hardware.

Indeed, as Ive pointed out, Mac OS Xs foundation operating system, Darwin, is already there. And, my boss, Matthew Rothenberg, and a buddy of his reported almost three years ago that Apple was working on a Mac OS X port called "Marklar."

What that means for everyone else in the desktop picture is that they need to get better and they need to do it now.

Was it any coincidence that Apple CEO Steve Jobs makes it sound like well see Mac OS X on Intel before well see Longhorn? I think not!

/zimages/1/28571.gifIs Apple taking a risk with Intel? Read more in Peter N. Glaskowskys column.

To even have a chance to make Longhorns late 2006 deadline, Microsoft has been cutting out features like WinFS (Windows File System) and changing its fundamental infrastructure so that it will no longer be built on .Net Framework. Microsoft is as vulnerable as it has ever been on the desktop.

Microsoft has been giving Linux desktop vendors their shot at the big time. Jobs saw the same thing.

So now Linux desktop vendors need to get their act together in a hurry if theyre going to make anything of their chance. If the Linux community wants to play a major role on the desktop, it needs to get products out now that can challenge the Mac OS X desktop.

For starters, that means getting all their efforts behind one desktop. They cant afford to waste time and energy working on both KDE and GNOME. Pick one, and get on with it (my choice: KDE). Stop the whining over which is better. Heres the simple truth, troops: Mac OS X is better, a lot better, than either one. Either the Linux desktop gets its act together in the coming year, or it will never become more than a niche operating system.

Next Page: Linux developers need to refocus.