Apple Is Winning On the Business Desktop: Is That Good for Open Source?

by Ostatic Staff - May. 23, 2011

"There’s really no other way to say this: The Mac is kicking ass," reports All Things Digital. What prompted these superlatives? March was the 20th consecutive quarter that Mac shipment growth exceeded PC shipments. According to data from IDC and cited by Needham and Company analyst Charles Wolf, Mac shipment shipment growth rose 27.7 percent in March, compared to a 1.2 percent decline in total PC shipments. Could Microsoft's domination of the corporate PC market be slipping, and what would a major shift toward Apple's systems mean for open source?

What's really notable about Apple's huge recent successes in the corporate market is that Apple still isn't really trying to capture the corporate market. The company has never made it a business priority to become dominant on business desktops. And yet, the IDC data shows that Apple is getting the nod from businesses in every major globabl region that IDC tracks.

There are a few hidden factors here. Over the years, I have run Mac, Windows and Linux systems, and one notable thing about the Mac systems that I use is that virtualization works flawlessy on them. I can jump into VMware on my Mac and have access to countless Windows applications, with little performance degradation. There are more and more users working in dual operating systems all day long. That didn't used to be the case.

I've also always noted here on OStatic that many open source enthusiasts favor the Mac over Windows systems. That's no surprise. Apple's culture closely aligns with many open source principles, though its culture certainly isn't totally open. So would rapid gains in market share for Apple in the business arena be good for open source?

That's a tough question to answer. As commercial open source companies continue to succeed, and as businesses adopt more open source software, many of the available open source choices work best on Windows. That's simply a function of the fact that Microsoft still owns more than 90 percent of the business desktop market with Windows. 

In all likelihood, the increased adoption of Apple systems in businesses has to do with the fact that IT administrators know that Mac users can also use Windows applications through virtualization. The choice is no longer "Mac or Windows" for many of these administrators.

It's been a long time since Microsoft faced any real challenge on the corporate desktop, but it seems clear that Apple is posing one now, whether the company is focused on that goal or not. Beyond the desktop, we've also noted that Linux is seeing barnstorming success on corporate servers.  That trend benefits Red Hat, primarily--another contender for Microsoft's business hegemony. Rarely in recent years have we seen this level of platform competition, and overall, it's probably healthy.