Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing, a long time Mac user, is talking about switching to Ubuntu Linux for desktop, following the steps of Mark Pilgrim, who has also recently migrated to Ubuntu and suggested Linux equivalents to Mac essentials.
And as Jason Kottke has said, "If I were Apple, I'd be worried about this... Nerds are a small demographic, but they can also be the canary in the coal mine with stuff like this."
Indeed, there's a lot of "nerd-factor" in there when Job resurrected the rotten Apple with Mac OS X, which has an open source Darwin kernel inside plus many BSD userland applications. Many have switched because their geek friends said it is "cool" -- and indeed it was, way ahead of its time, much better than Windows and Linux desktop can offer back then.
I have actually not had much experience with desktop on Linux for the last 5 years. A colleague of mine is using the latest KDE 3.x here on a Solaris box, but somehow it just does not feel as smooth as Mac OS X with all its Aqua glory. In some sense even the classic Windows desktop feels more consistent and usable. Maybe I just need to spend sometime re-evaluate the current offerings.
But would Mark and Cory's switches impact Apple and its Mac sales? Possible, but you are probably only going to see the impact in a few years time, when its hardcore evangelists die out and switch camps. To an average computer user, my wife Vivian for example, even she is frustrated with Mac OS X sometimes. And I cannot see how she can cope with working on a Linux desktop. Usability and accessibility aside (which Mac OS X might be much superior but I might be very wrong), at least when spinning beach-ball appears she knows to use "Force Kill" to get her out of the way. What do you do on a Linux "desktop", and without littering your home directories with core files?
Again I might be wrong. Do educate me with the latest happenings around Linux desktops.
When more geeks, or should I say "open source minded" people, moved over to Linux, we'll hopefully see it picking up what Apple/Mac cannot deliver. Not sure whether it is a good analogy, but can I say Movable Type verses WordPress? Sure, Movable Type is "open enough" for some people (sure, you can see the source code), and the code quality of WordPress wasn't really up to scratch 2 years ago. But then we see a big migration from MT to WP -- I won't say WP 1.2 back then was functionally superior, but at least it is free, and light enough to hack on. That migration eventually hastened WP's development, making it a better product, and those who switched became the evangelists themselves (year, power of geeks), which bringing in more users -- many "average Joe Bloggs" who know nothing about programming.
Operating system might be something else -- it is a platform people work on, and you'll get much more resistance for people to switch OS than blogging platforms. But one thing does not change -- geeks are pioneers and others follow. That happened when they switched from Windows to Linux. Now with Mark and Cory, two former Mac evangelists leading the way, we'll see whether it happens this time.
Update: O'Reilly Radar is also reporting nerds switching from Mac to Ubuntu. Looks like Ubuntu is really on some kind of back burner, and the search engine stats show that some people might make Ubuntu inter-exchangable to Linux, like Red Hat once was 5 years ago (remember people saying that they have Linux 5.1 installed?)