A recent article on Computerworld caught my attention. Linux lost out to Mac OS X as a development platform in a popularity survey. The survey, conducted by Evans Data Corp. reveals that Mac OS X is the primary development platform for 7.9% software developers against 5.6% who still prefer Linux. Windows is still the leader with 80% developers devoted to the platform.
The shift in preferences surprised me because Linux has long been the favorite amongdevelopers because of its true open-source nature and cost-effectiveness. The operating system is free and the supporting hardware doesn’t cost much unlike a Mac. For developers who want complete control over what they create as well as the medium on which they innovate, Linux is the ideal platform. Developers tweak each feature to have the interface just-so. That’s just not possible on Windows or Mac OS X.Of course, not all software developers are looking for that depth of fine grained control. They want a streamlined interface to work on, that gets them what they want without a lot of work and allows them to get started without worrying about internal files. They don’t want to spend time fine tuning the supporting software. They just want a simple, intuitive, and user-friendly interface which is exactly what they get with Mac OS X.
Apart from varying developer preferences, there’s the fact that Mac OS X and Linux have a common antecedent – Unix. That means Linux developers don’t have a very hard time switching to Mac OS X. Add to that the increasing demand for Mac OS X and iOS developers and the allure of getting recognition via apps that catch eyeballs on Apple’s platforms, not to mention the revenue. Mac computers are probably the best in terms of design with minimal noise and a fairly intuitive interface. The simplicity and usability justifies the cost for many Mac OS X developers as it enhances their productivity.
Though there’s a shift in developer preferences, no developer can claim his/her choice of platform is perfect. Each platform has issues that pain developers and force them to spend time on workarounds and alternatives.
With the growth and increased adoption of cloud computing, the development platform will soon cease to be an important consideration. Cloud computing encourages platform independence and gradually all app development will move from native to web. Client machines can vary largely and development zones too will become more diverse with the focus moving to the end product rather than the development media. However, there’s still some time for that to happen.
For now, Linux is still the most popular deployment platform even if it has lost some points in the development arena. Linux’s popularity among its die-hard fans will never go down because its inherent open-source qualities make it the ideal platform for the hands-on kind of developer. Ultimately, the choice of development platform is really about individual preferences rather than the capabilities of the OS.
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