Why did we (developers) flock to Macbooks? Even if using platform-agnostic languages and/or writing applications that would run on servers, we wanted portable Unix workstations with a high build quality and none of the hardware compatibility issues that come with trying to run Linux on a laptop. It’s been over 20 years since I first tried it and it is still woeful. The only way to run Linux on a laptop, even now, and not lose your mind is as a virtual guest of Windows or OSX. And with OSX all the power of Unix is right there already, great!
But Apple have really dropped the ball recently. The build quality isn’t there anymore, the CPU/GPU/memory specs of the MBP are lagging†, and there is a new player in town: Windows Subsystem for Linux. And it is seriously impressive, super-slick and Just Works™. Debian is available, you can develop for it with Visual Studio. There are still a few things to iron out – I still haven’t quite figured out how to have a single project that can target both – but no need to run a heavyweight, high-overhead VM or even a container, it’s deeply integrated with Windows, the experience is pretty seamless. I’m running it on a Surface Laptop now and by the way, I love the keyboard and I love the screen on this device. My first new laptop since 2008…
I think this is going to cost Apple a lot of developer mindshare, as long as MS manages not to screw up their acquisition of GitHub‡, and where the devs go the apps go and the users follow. I saw first hand a decade ago in the wholesale migration from SPARC/Solaris to Linux on x86 that a superior OS can’t save a vendor if they don’t have a good hardware story, and it’s not as if OSX can claim to be far ahead of Windows anymore. What amazing new feature did they demo at WWDC – the animated poop emoji??
† Their desktop workstation story is even worse, it’s almost as if they want to just be a phone/tablet company now. That’s where the revenue is but the apps and the content for iOS only exist because of the developer/media author ecosystem on OSX.
‡ Who will buy GitLab now is the question. Oracle??