Analyst: Mactel bad for desktop Linux

Apple rocked the PC industry with news of its move from PowerPC-based CPUs to Intel. While the idea of Mactel has sparked mixed feelings among the Macintosh faithful, one industry watcher says the announcement could ultimately be a bad sign for Linux's fledgling move towards broader desktop adoption - especially among corporate PC users.

"Apple's operating system works very well and is known widely," says Gary Hein, an analyst with the Burton Group. "It has the same power of Unix underneath, and it can run Microsoft Office natively." Linux PC users must run Office alternatives, such as OpenOffice.org, or use third-party plug-in software that allow Windows apps to run on Linux.

The fact that a Macintosh PC might soon run on lower-cost Intel chips and commodity hardware could draw those considering Microsoft alternatives on the desktop to look more closely at Apple instead of Linux. However, Hein says, many companies that begin exploring migrations off of Windows PCs often don't follow through.

"Everybody is investigating alternatives to Microsoft but no one's really moving. Some do in order to get more life out of old hardware. For others, it's a licensing, or it's based on anti-Microsoft emotions," Hein says.

Whether Apple's move to Intel will take away market share from Windows, or marginalize Linux on the desktop remains to be seen.

"It's hard to say one will hurt the other when neither [operating system] has much traction," on corporate desktops. "They're both kind of fighting for crumbs," Hein says.

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