The decline of the personal-computer operating system
In the past, most people insisted on getting Windows because most installable apps only worked on Windows. Now the need for apps beyond a core set is largely gone. The result has been an increasing market share for Mac OS. Not so long ago I would have hesitated to use a Mac because of the app problem, but earlier this year when given the choice of Windows or Mac OS at work it was a no-brainer for me to choose the largely superior Mac OS. (Well, except for one thing. Choosing Windows would have gotten me a ThinkPad, complete with the pointing stick in the middle of the keyboard. We touch-typists can, once used to a pointing stick, use it way faster than we can a trackpad, and a ThinkPad is what I use at home. A true no-brainer would have been a Mac with a pointing stick.)
In the longer term, however, Mac OS will suffer. If you do almost everything via your browser, it doesn’t much matter what OS you use. Macs have become relatively very expensive: a Mac laptop still costs $1000 or more while some Windows laptops cost only $500 (and smaller-screen Windows netbooks even less). In a post-credit-bubble economy, most people will be far less willing to pay the premium for a Mac.
Windows will lose out too. As laptop prices drop, the cost of Windows is getting to be a larger percentage of the overall cost of the machine, and it’s an obvious thing for the manufacturer to cut. Some netbooks don’t have Windows; others have it only as an extra-cost option.
So what’s ahead? There are three choices for most people’s next computer: Linux (free), Windows (more expensive, but with a reluctant price cut by Microsoft to stay in the game), and “nothing”. Fear not, Apple fans, Apple can still be a big player, via the “nothing” category. More in my next post!