Microsoft May Have Just Stolen the Future from Apple

Posted by UpGuard

Microsoft May Have Just Stolen the Future From Apple (image source:

The Mac is undeniably the platform of choice for designers and artists, and for good reason. Apple's designers—and Steve Jobs in particular, according to legend—took special care to make even the first Macs superior to PCs in ways that would matter to those in visual fields. Font selections and type rendering on computers, as one example, were decidedly crude prior to the Macintosh. It's a minor detail for the number cruncher or spreadsheet user, but can mean everything to those in the arts. For that reason and others like it, Apple has enjoyed the unflinching endearment of a certain subset of users.

Windows 10 Developer Mode (source the maturation of OSX over the past decade, Macs have also become the go-to machines for software developers. But as the adage goes, engineers are not designers. Code is code, after all, and both Windows and OSX even used the same CPU architecture after 2005. So why would engineers want a machine that typically costs hundreds more than the equivalent Windows machine with similar guts? Googling that question brings up a number of Quora and Yahoo! Answers pages of others asking the same question, and a handful of reasons keep coming up:

  • It's Unix under the hood
  • Unification of hardware and software under one authority, meaning everything famously "just works"
  • Physical build quality is consistent and generally pretty good

Points 2 and 3 can't be argued—For better or worse, those are things that Apple is squarely responsible for in their products. If something screws up, Apple and only Apple would be to blame. Some appreciate the predictability of the walled garden, but that's a discussion for another article entirely. Point 1 is what's changing—and it was Apple's trump card in winning over new engineers.

Linux on the desktop never really became mainstream, but Unix on the desktop did. OSX married an excellent graphical interface with a powerful command line—the same variety of command line that would be present on many of the servers running the applications being developed. Apple pulled off what Linux distributions could not (and arguably still cannot), and the end result made perfect sense to many power users and engineers.

This summer, Microsoft will release an update to Windows 10 which will allow Linux binaries to run natively. No VMs, no Cygwin—we're talking about true-blue Ubuntu binaries from Canonical, giving Windows machines a real bash shell, apt-get, and nearly anything else most users would need from a Linux command line. (No X Window System officially, and file sockets and pty/tty bits aren't at 100% yet, but it is still a beta.)

If Microsoft can pull it off well enough and have it work as advertised, such a feature has the potential to eat Apple's lunch when it comes to winning over future software engineers—especially those looking to develop with frameworks that don't play easily with Windows such as Ruby on Rails.

Example of the bash shell on Windows. (Source: appeal stands to be greatest for future engineers who are on a budget. If Microsoft can marry the experience of a good everyday graphical interface with a powerful Unix command line in the way Apple once did, and get users capably developing in high-demand frameworks on a $169 Celeron machine instead of a $1699 MacBook, the move could potentially significantly reduce the ratio of glowing white Apple logos to be found in the offices and coffee shops of the future. Sure, the average build quality and feature set may not be the same, but an economy car can get you across town just as well as a Tesla.

Are seasoned engineers, graphic designers and artists going to trade in their Retina MacBooks for a gaudy blue plastic Asus? No, nor will large masses of happy Apple users unravel their OSX muscle memories and computing habits to make the switch. But what is possible is the opening up of new skills and career options to many who otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity to try, and perhaps even the unflinching endearment of a new subset of users... to Windows.

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Topics: developer, unix, Windows, apple

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