Enough with Linux as a second class citizen!

I’m sick of Linux being treated like a second class citizen. Hardware and software vendors alike almost proudly display “Supported for PC and Mac” tag lines. Technically, that doesn’t even make sense, because both Windows and OS X can now run on pretty much the same hardware. And so can Linux. Even from a market share stand point, I can understand vendors’ desires to advertise out of the box Windows support, but the market share of OS X is not substantially greater than that of Linux (specially if you put together all the different distributions).

But most importantly, I think it just being mean to the open source community. Consider the recent [[http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/03/18safari.html|Safari announcement]]. Now it is well known that Safari is based on [[http://webkit.org/|WebKit]] which has its roots in [[http://konqueror.kde.org/features/browser.php|KHTML]], the HTML renderer originally developed by the [[http://kde.org|KDE community]]. To its credit, Apple has showed its interest in giving back to the community and [[http://arstechnica.com/journals/linux.ars/2007/07/23/the-unforking-of-kdes-khtml-and-webkit|WebKit and KHTML developers are collaborating]] to share their innovations.

But then why does Apple release Safari for Windows and Mac only? WebKit works fine on all platforms (both with GTK and QT) so there’s really no good reason. For that matter, what about iTunes? Why isn’t there an iTunes equivalent for Linux from Apple itself? Why does it want to alienate so many iPod and iPhone users who have Linux on their desktop? What about keyboards and wireless mice? Or monitors and hard drives and webcams and tablets and microphones? Or any number of the zillions of peripherals out there.

If you read the news, there is no dearth of evidence that open source in general, and Linux in particular, is impacting our daily lives more than ever before. Even if you don’t realize it. From embedded systems to mission critical systems, from enterprise systems to the OLPC, from news papers to television stations, Linux and open source are every where. For a comprehensive in-depth article and lots of numbers backing these claims, I highly recommend [[http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_why.html|this article]] by David Wheeler. How long will we have to wait before vendors finally accept that this is a customer base that they can NOT afford to ignore? How long will the community will have to keep proving itself over and over again that it is NOT a bunch of nerdy hobbyists who have no connection with reality?

**Update**: Here are some more resources on Linux/open source usage:
* [[http://mtechit.com/linux-biz/|Linux in business]]: business by categories
* [[http://www.aaxnet.com/design/linux2.html|Companies using Linux]]
* [[http://www.desktoplinux.com/index.html|Lots of news about Linux on the desktop]]: several big vendors like Dell and Lenovo now sell laptops and desktops pre-installed with Linux


  1. Chris X

    The absurd evidence makes me wonder about coercion from software entities more powerful than Linux. I have seen many retail boxes of completely platform-agnostic devices that have MSFT and AAPL logos on them, but no Linux endorsement. On something like a USB drive which obviously is going to work on Linux, omitting the free-to-use cute penguin just seems like a martketing faux pas. People who really don’t know anything would be assured that this devices works with things they don’t even know about. And for those who recognize Linux’s branding, it will assure them that competent people, i.e. Linux users, use this device. To leave Linux off the list unnecessarily really makes me wonder. You can imagine the owner of a copyrighted branding saying, “It’s the penguin *or* us.”

  2. Richard Chapman

    I like your post. You ask some good questions. I’d like to offer my explanation for one of them.

    “But then why does Apple release Safari for Windows and Mac only?” The answer is in your question. Steve Jobs has nothing to fear from Microsoft. He is much smarter than Steve Ballmer. He has outsmarted them at every turn in spite of the fact that Microsoft dwarfs Apple in size and resources. But Steve Jobs has everything to fear from Open Source and Linux. He knows we can’t be defeated using traditional business practices. My guess is that he is hoping that Open Source will effectively eliminate Microsoft from the market place and then he can make a “land grab” with Apple. So he wants to keep Linux at a distance as a competitor, but feed it enough so it can dispatch Microsoft. I laugh at Steve Ballmer (along with a lot of other people), I fear Steve Jobs.

  3. Diwaker Gupta

    *@xed*: Good point. Someone needs to teach these people marketing! I mean even video game consoles have Linux on them these days. So do a lot of the networking equipment, wireless routers, printers and what not. And actually Apple really confuses me. I mean barring their recent announcement and disclosure of some binary formats, Microsoft has had a long history of being anti F/OSS, so they don’t surprise me. Apple, however, seems to be playing a double cross game. On the one hand, they act really nice and friendly to the open source community, and actually have benefited _tremendously_ from things like Darwin, Mach, FreeBSD, Ruby, KHTML and DTrace to name a few. But on the other hand, they go back and stab us in the back by _actively_ making it harder for people to use their hardware with non-Apple software (iPods, iPhone) and their software with other software by using weird formats of their own (Mail.app)

  4. David N. Welton


    One little bit in the battle that I have helped to start and maintain is the Linux Incompatibility List, at http://www.linuxsi.com. Basically, it’s a list of stuff that doesn’t work with Linux, and that as a consequence you should avoid.

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