Most of the world’s personal computers run on Microsoft Windows. Gartner, a tech industry research group, says that the 280 million Windows boxes shipped last year swamped 12.5 million Macs and 2.9 million Chromebooks. But Gartner is also predicting that the Linux-based Chrome operating system will overtake the Mac OS by 2016.
“There’s a couple of reasons – one is the number of vendors who are now pushing a [Chromebook] device,” explained Ranjit Atwal, research director at the firm.
“The second thing is the appeal they have in developing markets given their price points.
”You’re looking at large-screen notebooks for less than $200 with a good software ecosystem around them – that’s a compelling proposition. The only inhibiting factor is connectivity."
Because Chromebooks are essentially cloud computers that are centrally managed and maintained by Google, the comparative clunkiness of Linux user interfaces and the wonkiness required to install and upgrade software become non-issues.
It just works. If it has a sufficiently robust Internet connection. Which means broadband infrastructure initiatives in developing markets, such as South Africa, and edgy edge projects, like Facebook’s and Google’s drones and looney balloons could have as much bearing on Microsoft’s survival as continued refinement of Linux and associated open software applications.
Of course, Microsoft is moving toward a cloud-based model, too. But it’s stuck in the middle between Google’s purist approach and Apple’s tight OS-application-hardware-service integration. Premium priced Macs can never be an existential threat to Windows machines, but as Internet connectivity becomes ever more reliable and affordable across the planet, equally sleek and much cheaper Linux installations will.