Developer Year in Review: Operating Systems

Windows 7 outshines Vista (not hard), Linux still in peril (hard luck), and the Mac App Store launches (hard sell)

Our year in review concludes (slightly on the wrong side of the new year) with a look at what was up in operating systems. Rather than print a laundry list of who released what new version, let’s take a look at some of the news that broke in 2010.

Linux: We’re saved … maybe?

As someone who has 10 shares of SCO framed and displayed in his bathroom, 2010 looked to be a very good year. The Beast from Utah finally exhausted all of its legal options, and cratered into a messy bankruptcy, leaving Novell with clear ownership of the Unix intellectual property that Linux may or may not incorporate. We all rejoiced, assuming that Linux would enjoy a happy existence in the future, unworried by fears of corporate protection rackets trying to intimidate people into paying for the free OS.

Then this fall, Novell announced that it was selling more than 800 of their patents to a consortium that includes Microsoft as a major player. Suddenly, all of the angst about IP attacks against Linux were back on the table, but now with known Linux-hater Microsoft appearing to hold the reins. Will further legal hijinks ensue? Only time will tell.

For Windows, second time’s a charm

After the impressive (in the Hindenburg sense) launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft went back to the drawing board. They must have put a better grade of Kool-Aid in the water coolers the second time around, because Windows 7 has experienced a much warmer reception.

Vista never managed to crack the 20 percent adoption mark, even after four years on the market (it peaked just shy of 19 percent). By contrast, Windows 7 is already past the 20 percent mark, after only a little more than a year. XP, however, is still holding on to more than 50 percent of the Windows market. Not bad for a nine-year-old OS that isn’t supported by Microsoft anymore.

MacOS gets a new distribution model

2010 brought point releases for Snow Leopard, but Mac-heads will have to wait until 2011 for the next major release, which we now know is called Lion.

Instead, the big news in 2010 was that Apple wants to do for desktop software what the iPhone App Store did for mobile. It remains to be seen if the new Mac App Store will be embraced by major software publishers. On one side of the equation, Apple is going to get a significant cut of the revenue from App Store sales, but on the other side, there’s no need to create physical products to sell in retail stores. Add to that the fact that if a company won’t sell their software in the App Store, a competitor might, and the App Store model has proven to be an effective way to sell software. Companies will ignore the App Store at the peril of their market share.

The other guys

Solaris: Reports suggest Oracle wants to bring Solaris back into a proprietary model, negating some or all of the work Sun did open sourcing it.

BSD: BSD adoption on desktops continues to be practically nonexistent, and even in the server market, it only accounts for 2.4 percent of servers. By contrast, Linux owns more than 60 percent of the server market, and even Windows has 15 times the installation base. It may be time for BSD to take a long hard look at itself, if it wants to avoid becoming irrelevant.

This concludes our year in review. Please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their full upright and locked positions. Next week, we’ll get back to serving up the best of the week’s news. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.


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