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Comparing Ubuntu vs macOS for enterprise developers

This article is more than 1 year old.

Photo by Desola Lanre-Ologun, Unsplash

In the constantly evolving world of software development and IT management, choosing the right operating system for your enterprise developers is a strategic choice. Ubuntu vs macOS, which is right for you? Our latest whitepaper helps you answer this question and make an informed decision. This blog post provides a sneak peek into our findings covering both the developer landscape, and the key considerations for IT administrators.

Considering macOS or Linux for your organisation? Find out how Ubuntu stacks up.

Download the Whitepaper

Ubuntu vs macOS: The developer landscape

In the developer OS space, macOS and Ubuntu have a roughly equivalent market share. According to the HackerEarth developer survey 2021, 23.7% of developers preferred Ubuntu whilst 24.4% favoured macOS. The StackOverflow developer survey 2022 – which offered a multiple choice response- provided a similar insight, with 54% of professional developers using Linux as their primary development environment (either natively or via Windows Subsystem for Linux) and 33% using macOS.

Ubuntu Desktop is renowned for its seamless compatibility with production environments across cloud, server, and IoT deployments. This consistency simplifies the development process, mitigating common migration issues. As the preferred operating system across public clouds, Ubuntu excels in server operations and provides support for a variety of cloud-based developer tools. In addition it offers a specialised platform for IoT with Ubuntu Core, an immutable version of Ubuntu. Ubuntu also stands out in the domain of AI and machine learning due to its native support for popular programming languages and robust integration with GPU-accelerated tasks.

macOS provides a highly polished user interface and integrates seamlessly with other Apple devices. It also supports cloud-based application development and iCloud services, making it a viable choice for developers already within the Apple ecosystem. However, compared to Ubuntu, macOS may not provide as extensive support for server-side applications and services. The need to fully virtualise a Linux production environment can also create performance overheads. While macOS does offer support for AI/ML languages and frameworks, it does not integrate as closely with GPU-accelerated tasks as Ubuntu.

An exclusive advantage of macOS is its role in iOS app development. macOS is the only platform that supports Apple’s Xcode which includes the iOS SDK and offers a comprehensive suite of tools for developing apps for all Apple platforms. The seamless integration between macOS and iOS, including iOS simulators for testing and the ability to deploy apps directly to an iOS device, simplifies the development process and can enhance productivity. The familiarity of the macOS interface and its well-documented resources make it an appealing environment for iOS app development.

Both Ubuntu Desktop and macOS have their unique strengths that cater to the different goals of developers. While Ubuntu offers broad compatibility and specialised tools for diverse development environments, macOS excels in more specialist areas such as its exclusive capability for iOS app development, a critical consideration for mobile developers.

Ubuntu vs macOS: IT management considerations

From the perspective of an IT administrator looking to empower developers in their organisations, Ubuntu and macOS both offer unique benefits but are fundamentally different in design, operation, and cost.

Ubuntu is compatible with a wide range of hardware from leading manufacturers such as Dell, Lenovo and HP, providing flexibility and compatibility across a broad spectrum of devices. Its security focus is exemplified by built-in firewall configuration, mandatory access controls and automatic updates for the OS and installed applications. Management tools like cloud-init and Landscape offer robust capabilities for custom image creation and device management.

Ubuntu also supports integration with Active Directory and Azure AD for user management and authentication. Long-Term Support (LTS) versions of Ubuntu offer stability and security for five years, which is expanded to ten years with Ubuntu Pro. Compliance in highly regulated environments is also facilitated via a FIPS-certified kernel and other key software components​.

macOS is limited to Apple’s hardware. This leads to higher integration and performance but these factors must be balanced against potentially increased costs and less flexibility. macOS offers strong security features like Gatekeeper, XProtect, FileVault 2, and System Integrity Protection, but as a closed-source system, it lacks the scrutiny provided by the open-source community.

Management is facilitated through proprietary solutions such as Apple Business Manager, or third-party tools like Jamf. macOS supports Active Directory integration for user management and authentication, and supports Azure AD authentication using the Microsoft Enterprise SSO plug-in. While Apple provides regular updates and professional support, the longevity of support for any given version is typically shorter than Ubuntu LTS releases and closely tied to the device generation.

In conclusion, whilst macOS offers robust, highly performant and integrated solutions, Ubuntu provides greater flexibility, control, extended support periods, and cost-effectiveness.

Learn more about Ubuntu Desktop for organisations

Ubuntu Desktop is designed to provide a secure, integrated and cost-effective solution for enterprise developers and administrators. To find out more about how we support businesses across the globe please get in touch.

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