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Thank Apple for the Linux 'desktop'

Apple's rise is teaching a generation to look beyond Windows, which bodes well for Linux.

I spent the weekend using Ubuntu 9.04 almost exclusively. Blame it on Apple.

Seven years ago I didn't know any better than to use Windows, but in 2002 I switched to the Mac and have never looked back. Between my Mac and my iPhone, I've lived a completely Windows-free existence for so long that I actually don't remember "the Windows way."

Which, I think, is why it has been so easy to pick up Ubuntu, Moblin, and other variants of Linux. But for the Mac, I don't think I'd be so willing to try a new operating system.

Linux has its problems: some things that should be easy still require too much user intervention. I spent far too much of my weekend just trying to get Flash to work so that I could check blog statistics and watch a video on Vimeo. I still can't get it to work.

That's the downside. The upside is that, generally speaking, the Linux user experience has been wonderful: clean, powerful, and approachable.

Though Moblin emulates much that is great about the Mac experience, Ubuntu seems to be trying to make things easy on Windows hold-outs. In both cases, however, it is the Mac and iPhone that, by example, make the switch possible.

Apple has taught an ever larger percentage of the computing public to think outside the Windows box. While many who jump from Windows to the Mac won't look back, this shift has created a heterogeneous computing environment that no longer depends upon a Windows monopoly. Users are beginning to consider and even to expect alternatives to Windows.

In fact, Windows is no longer the default computing experience for mobile. This opens up new vistas for Apple, of course, but it's also a great opportunity for the Linux vendors.

As Apple persists in resisting the Netbook urge, Linux variants like Moblin, Ubuntu Remix for Netbooks, and others will have the opportunity to serve consumers, consumers trained by Apple to "think different" and to think beyond Windows.

Apple reportedly considered Linux to power the iPhone. Instead, it is the iPhone (and Mac) that may well power the Linux industry. Next time you boot up your Linux machine you may want to thank Steve Jobs and the Apple crew.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.