The past 48 hours have been filled with drama for me. My MacBook Pro died on March 15, forcing me to scramble for help from Apple while I shifted all of my blogging and business efforts over to a System76's Pangolin Performance laptop running Ubuntu. The experience reminded me: Ubuntu fills a growing niche where (A) Apple won't compete on price and (B) Microsoft hasn't competed on quality.

First, a big apology and a big thank you to System76 President Carl Richell. He was kind enough to lend me a Pangolin Performance system to review several months ago. I should have returned it by now, but thank goodness I hadn't because the system is a gem. Carl: The system is now in the mail back to you.

Now, back to my horror story -- which had a happy ending. My MacBook Pro's hard drive died March 15. Fortunately, I had backed up all my data and I also have an Apple Care service agreement that offers free support from the Apple Genius Bar, located in Apple Stores. My local Apple Store completely repaired the system (including complete software recovery) on March 16 -- within 24 hours of the failure.

Juggling Ubuntu and Mac OS X

On a typical day, I jump between my MacBook Pro (blogging on MSPmentor and The VAR Guy) and a range of Ubuntu desktops and notebooks (while blogging on WorksWithU).

But when the MacBook died, I switched full-time over to System76's notebook running Ubuntu and plowed ahead with blogging. I'm playing catch up  in some areas -- including a few contributor blogs that need to hit this site.

Still, the Ubuntu system performed like a dream.

How Apple and Ubuntu Can Both Win

Looking ahead, I see a clear opportunity for Ubuntu to be a preferred alternative to Windows notebooks, while Apple remains a higher-end choice for digital content creators.

I have to be brutally honest: I love my MacBook Pro,  Apple's customer support and Apple's digital editing tools (iLife, iMovie, GarageBand, etc). If there are intuitive, reliable, open source alternatives to those Apple applications I'm all ears. But even if you show me those open source tools, I suspect I'll stick with Apple's options because they are so darn intuitive and yes, even fun to use.

Still, Apple plays at the higher end of the market, and Apple products carry a premium price tag. I can't imagine buying a bunch of MacBook Pros for general business users.

Moreover, I can't recommend Windows systems at the moment because the industry is stuck in purgatory -- between Windows Vista and Windows 7.

As a result, Ubuntu continues to fill a niche where (A) Apple can't compete on price and (B) Microsoft can't compete on quality. Ubuntu remains a solid, predictable, reliable choice on a growing number of desktops, notebooks and netbooks. Assuming Canonical doesn't mess up Ubuntu 9.04's delivery (Jaunty Jackalope) in April, this should be a banner year for Ubuntu's continued desktop growth.

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