The New York Times reported today that Apple has opened its first Apple Store in Paris, underneath the Louvre no less, and just two weeks after Microsoft opened up a Windows 7 cafe in Paris in another location. The idea of these two companies competing in a retail environment, and especially a Windows-themed cafe, got me thinking about what would happen if three cafes opened each run in the same style of the operating system it was named for. I figure it might look something like this:

Windows Cafe

The Windows Cafe is in a bland store front. The furniture consists of straight wooden chairs with tables with sharp angles. Unfortunately, every so often when you sit in a chair it crashes the to the floor, but you get used to this and figure it's just part of the experience of going to the Windows Cafe. (To be fair they have been testing chairs from a new manufacturer and they are reportedly less prone to breaking in this fashion.) Pictures of a smiling Bill Gates and Windows logos adorn the walls. The coffee tastes fine most of the time, but a surprising number of patrons get sick there, so that it's become standard practice to use hand sanitizer before you go in to protect yourself. The coffee is expensive, and refills are definitely not free, but it's a known quantity, and many people are comfortable going there.

Linux Cafe

The Linux Cafe is a funky place in an artsy neighborhood with eclectic furniture donated by the patrons. It doesn't match, but it's comfortable and the walls are covered with donated pictures and paintings by local artists. The coffee is free, served in black cups (or you can just bring your own), but you need to make it yourself. If you can't do it yourself, the cafe has consultants available to help you for a fee. It's great for people who know about coffee brewing, but many people are intimidated by the idea of making their own coffee and stay away, even though very few people ever get sick who go there.

Apple Cafe

The Apple Cafe is a modern, state-of-the-art facility. The tables are stainless steel and the chairs are ultra-contemporary. Shrines to Apple CEO Steve Jobs are dotted around the wide space. The cups are cool and come in a variety of bright colors. The coffee is well made by a highly trained staff, and even though it costs a lot more, people line up around the block for a chance to drink it. Just don't ask the staff about their coffee-making techniques because they are extremely tight lipped about this. People occasionally get sick there, but it's rare enough for the cafe to brag about its safety record.

So there you have it. Three cafes with three distinct personalities just like the operating systems they represent

Photo by Marfis75 on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Great article
haha cooool
Attachments coffee.jpg 47.52 KB

With systems preloaded with Linux readily available the idea that you have to make or brew your own is just plain outdated. The idea that everything is donated by the patrons is also way off base. The big Linux distros all have corporate backing. This really doesn't represent Linux at all.

I see this is in the OSX forum. I have to assume it was written by a Mac user who hasn't used a current release of Linux.

I'd have to disagree caitlyn.

People in the Linux cafe would make their own coffee because they want to experience making their own coffee. Not everyone would go for that reason, but part of the appeal is being able to custom-make your coffee. Dark, medium, light, expresso... Interestingly enough, I've worked as a cafe barista and I use GNU/Linux. I grind my own coffee and it tastes superior to pre-ground stuff.
Getting to the point where you can do something from scratch professionally isn't easy, but it's definitely worth it.

Linux has corporate backing because corporations really like its stability and flexability. In this example, it would be as if a company wanted to have their meetings at a cafe that was themed specifically for them. They just donate all the furniture and paintings that reflect what they want, and every time they go to that cafe, the furniture and paintings are already there for them.
So no. Not outdated and not off base whatsoever.
This made me smile. =D

You'd be surprised on how accurate this blog really is. In fact, I'd probably feel really comfortable in such a cafe. =D You should implement this idea Ron.

For the record, I would have put this in a general OS category, but there wasn't one, and since I lead off the post with a note about the Apple Store opening, I just picked that one as the forum.

I own machines with Windows, Linux and OSX on them.


Who knew I came up with a business idea with a post where I was just having a little fun. :-)

Glad it has stimulated a little conversation.


There's different strokes for different folks. Good job Ron Miller. There is a novelty surrounding how we like things done, like people who make their own clothes and make their own furniture but then like to eat out. Not everyone like the same things, its why people improvise, and mix and match to get what makes their hearts content. Perhaps, people will grasp the concept of freedom enough that they realise that the coexistence of various schools of thought actually enriches society.

Peon-Dev certainly describes the Linux cafe the way you'd expect a happy patron there to describe it.

And I'll stroll on by, noticing they seem very happy, and I'll be glad they're enjoying their cafe. I'll think to myself that it's always good when someone discovers that putting extra work into a task is rewarding. I'll also reflect that coffee isn't the only thing one can put extra time into. I'll remember that if you let someone make your coffee for you, you might have extra time to do one of those other things, spending extra care in that direction, and experience a reward such as the Linux coffee drinkers have... but different. I'll think to myself, “This way, I have more freedom to choose what I spend extra time on.” I'll think to myself that spending extra time on the coffee is nice, but only if you liked coffee.

And then I'll stroll into the Apple cafe. I'll order my cocoa. There's a bunch of people there. Each of us is doing something different, it seems. There's an appreciation of the cocoa, but most of us are more interested in something else. We're aware of the price, but it's our opinion that the prices aren't significantly higher for what we're drinking. It was just that the cheap stuff wasn't on the menu.

As I'm leaving, I'll wave at someone I know coming out of the Linux cafe. We'll talk a bit, remembering to duck flying glass when one of the chairs in the Windows cafe blows. Which, you know, sometimes they do.

Some guy named “here2serve” will be coming out of the Linux cafe. He'll be making tired old comments like he no doubt always does, world without end. He'll think he's made an insightful point, and I'll just shrug and try subtly to maneuver myself upwind... because some people just never did learn about that deodorant thing. He'll make silly comments about me being broke after going to the Apple cafe, but I'm not. And he'll make even sillier comments about how he's free. Sometimes people have an odd notion of freedom. While I was in my cafe, I got a lot of things done. I didn't think much about the coffee, or the cocoa. Sometimes a guy gets so absorbed in the need for his coffee to be free that he forgets there are other things you could be doing with your time. I can always make a little more money; but I can't make more time. Sometimes the one is a damned fine trade for the other. (And I'm still not broke. Go figure)

You forgot to mention that the Apple Cafe' serves coffee with a "Kool-Aid" after-taste, that leaves you wanting to express your "individuality" by joining the ever-so-chic, "in" crowd. ;)

Great post Ron.
To continue the metaphor:
Windows coffee machines are everywhere, indeed almost every business might have one ranging from the tiniest set-up in a fridge or cash dispenser to running factories or transport hubs. Why they need a coffee machine to run a fridge is a source of much glee in the Windows cafe - hey, it's my job right?
Linux cafes are very common but often hidden away and their coffee machines are almost always found in smaller numbers but oddly, they are often needed to keep the Windows coffee machines running and that is a source of much glee in the Linux cafe.
Apple cafes are only found in pricier neighbourhoods but there are a surprising number of their coffee machines in private hands with a valuable secondhand market.
The Windows cafe will have hordes of overworked staff who must have many skills born out of necessity because every stage of the coffee experience is likely to randomly break at some stage. This even extends to opening the front door where the key, bafflingly, might not fit from one day to the next. Employment chances are high at the Windows cafe.
The Linux and Apple cafe's by comparison are efficiently run by very few staff tho' the Apple staff have an annoying habit of smiling at you just for entering the premises.
The Windows coffee machine will accept coffee from any source so long as you grind it using a standard container holder. The coffee is therefore of varying standards only occasionally rising above the normal bland taste.
Linux coffee is also sourced very widely but has a very smooth taste no matter what. The coffee machine looks very Heath Robinson but runs all day without problem.
Apple coffee is sourced from only select growers and must be sold through to the cafes by the parent company. This means of course shockingly high prices but the quality is equally astonishing. Indeed the coffee is known to induce a state of bliss such that the other cafes think they must be putting something in the coffee.
Windows cafe drinkers rarely visit the Apple cafe, saying the coffee is way too expensive and it's not necessary to have such modern furniture - a chair is just a chair right?
Linux coffee drinkers are generally less discerning and will willingly use anybody's premises to drink their homebrew. They are generally appreciative of Apple coffee but think their coffee is just as good since it can generally be brewed using Apple machines - the flavour is different that's all.
Apple coffee drinkers will visit Windows cafes if they really have to and resent hugely the fact that sometimes there is no alternative. They will drink Linux coffee but generally consider the flavour to be a bit insipid compared to their own. They appreciate the cheapness but hey, you get what you pay for right?
Fun and fascinating and much better than the usual car comparisons.

The linux cafe would have so many kinds of coffee it would be overwhelming. The coffee would be free but you would have to pay for the cups. The choice of cups while well made are also overwhelming.The windows cafe would sell only one kind of coffee. the coffee is inexpensive if you buy it in their oem cup but if you want to buy coffee alone the price can be steep. Their cups are know for having holes in them and you end up paying hidden costs in medical bills from a virus you caught from the coffee. The mac cafe would also sell only one kind of coffee. It would be more expensive than any other coffee but would come in shiny cups that are also well made that "peacocks" like to brandish.

I not only grind my own coffee, I roast it. I design roast curves (changes in temperature over time) customized to bring out the best in my coffee, whether it is a selected lot of astonishingly fragrant, high-grown Kenyan roasted just short of city-plus or a lightly city-roasted, subtle, Mandarin/tangerine fragranced Papua New Guinea.

My computer: A Mac, of course.

I think it's great how people have continued to carry the metaphor out in your own ways. Thanks so much for all the wonderful, thoughtful comments. Fantastic.


I'm sure you guys noticed that there's an iPhone OS lounge in the OS X cafe.
I've spent some time in there over the past year. The coffee is decently priced and usually tastes real good. There's almost 100,000 flavors to choose from. The mug costs you an arm and a leg, but it looks really nice.
However, the lid of the mug is soldered shut, and you only have a straw through which you're allowed to drink pre-approved coffee, but can't pour anything in. The cafe owners have a secret way of refilling your mug for you. You're only allowed to use the mug with coffee supplied by the cafe owners. They get the beans from various plantations, that's true, but the rates aren't really fair trade, and many producers get turned down because their coffee smells to much like the house blend the cafe owners are making.
Every now and then, the statue of Lord Steve issues a keynote address or plays a clever commercial telling people what flavor of coffee they should like. Many patrons instantly switch to the new flavor.

They say that if you pry off the floorboards in the OS X cafe, you'll find that the solid concrete foundation underneath is actually an old UNIX/Linux cafe, and that the shiny plastic OS X floors on top wouldn't really be able to last without that foundation. Some of the patrons have actually completely removed the floorboards in a corner of the OS X cafe, and installed a few Linux .deb coffee machines straight on the UNIX foundation. We also set up a small workshop in that corner, and some really skillful guys have managed to cut off the soldiered iphone OS cup lid, and now we can actually see what's inside the cup, clean it when necessary, pour our coffee ourselves, and enjoy any type of coffee we want.
Most of the patrons in the shiny part of the building don't know about our corner, or refuse to acknowledge it. They're ok with drinking the mystery coffee served to them in the locked cups, and never knowing that there's more out there. Steve gets angry when he hears about us. One of our guys once spray-painted a pineapple on Steve's statue, just to piss him off :-)

Someone explain to me what these things are that I "have to do myself" to use Linux? I've been on it for six years, it's been pretty easy. Sure, there are occasional things I CAN optionally do to "sup up" my install with some cutting edge whizbangs, but using it out of the box required far less from me than the legacy OS.

And Linux isn't stable? Someone quick! tell Oracle, IBM, and RedHat before they make another massive deployment....

That would be really cool to set up a Linux cafe with lots of variety. There, all the Linux users could congregate, have parties, and drink delicious beverages and foodstuff brought in pot-luck style. Then, all of the Linux newbies could come to the cafe and get tech support from the helpful people there as well as eat food. Heh, a nice idea. Maybe someday...

Linux is stable. Very stable. A lot of the impressions about it having issues are based on taking anecdotes out of context. Most of us Linux freaks are NOT interested in the stability of our personal machines. We are the computer-world equivalent of hot-rod gearheads. We /like/ spending a day tinkering under the hood, seeing if we can get that extra bit of performance or just the right /sound/ to the engine. I have an old friend who loves his boat in the same way and he seems crazy to me. My personal system is unstable, and I want it this way because I like tuning, tweaking, learning and exploring.

This weekend, my daughter finally asked me to defenestrate her Vista box so I'm going to put a stable release of a familiar distro and leave it alone. I expect zero issues.


You forgot to mention that in the Apple Cafe you must first buy an Apple cup as your not allowed to bring your own - it's part of a quality experience they say. We all know that's mostly BS, and you can find bigger and better cups in both Linux and Windows cafes, you can even find tough-cups designed for construction workers or the clumsy types that frequently drop and damage their cups. The Apple cups are good quality of course, but they really are not all that different from those cups they are practically giving away elsewhere. On the plus side however, your first cup is free.
Apple, unfortunately, doesn't have a huge market share yet, so many of the "must have" creamers don't mix with Apple coffee. No worries though, Apple doesn't restrict what you can put in your Apple cup, so feel free to stop by another cafe to pick-up what need. Unfortunately, most creamers at the windows cafe only mix with windows coffee, so you will need to dump out your Apple coffee and buy some windows coffee before you can use the desired creamer. If you don't want to dump out your coffee you can buy a virtual cup that fits in your Apple cup allowing have multiple coffees in the same cup simultaneously! However, please note that only non-Apple coffee's can be placed in virtual cups. Apple coffee will become very bitter and is not drinkable in a virtual cup (even if the virtual cup is placed in an Apple cup). This is of course perfectly legal cause the Apple cafe doesn't actually "sell" coffee, they "license" it and therefore can dictate to you how your coffee must be consumed. In theory, Microsoft could also have cup restrictions, but since they sell coffee rather than cups, they don't really care what you put it in.
Most cups only last a few years before the handle breaks. It is easy to spend a lot of money on creamers and accessories for your Apple cup, and you wont want to loose your investment when it breaks, so you will probably want to stick with Apple. Of course, by then your warranty will have expired and replacement parts will be obsolete and hard to find. But you'll probably want to buy the latest and greatest cup anyway. Chances are many of your creamers will still mix with the latest coffee, but there is of course no guarantee and some of your old creamers will likely need to be replaced. I would recommend a tough-mug but Apple doesn't currently sell them.
You might also be interested to know that Apple also sells a pocket sized travel mug, which has an absurdly large variety of creamers available. The lid can't be removed, however, and the creamers can only be inserted through a specially designed opening when properly packaged. Apple strictly controls the packaging though and only approved flavours are available. Truth be told however, while there are a handful of great flavours, most of them pretty much suck and the most interesting ones are always getting rejected. It's not entirely clear what flavours are allowed as many have spent countless hours only to have their flavour rejected because it tasted a bit to much like one of Apples own flavours. It does seem a bit odd to me though, considering that the EU doesn't allow windows cafes to sell coffee mixed with their own creamers as some sort of anti-trust thing. But, I guess until your considered a monopoly it's still ok to engage in anti-competitive practices.


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I'd be happy to go to all three cafes, but I'd probably be most likely to hang in the Apple one. There are only so many crashing chairs and Windows logos I could stand before heading back to the safe haven of a Bondi Blue cappuccino mug!

That said, there is something appealing about free and eclectic, and I would imagine there would be plenty of other patrons in the Linux cafe willing to help out those who couldn't brew their own coffee.

Sad that so few choose freedom

You delude yourself with the idea that such a thing exists.

# jbennet who said:

Um. what? Linux is not stable.

I've been using 2 different versions of linux for the past 2 years (Ubuntu and Archlinux). I don't have the best computer, but it havent crashed even once in that time, and everything works just as they should.
I use Windows at the same time. And it crashes a lot. Maby once every second day. Wich of the is more stable?

Anyway, great post :D

Peon-Dev Nov 7th, 2009 - "Dark, medium, light, expresso... Interestingly enough, I've worked as a cafe barista..."

It's unfortunate (and amusing) that you worked as a "cafe barista" for any length of time and your pronunciation of espresso was never corrected.

jbennet Nov 7th, 2009 - "Um. what? Linux is not stable."

And as I was already laughing, I am now out of breath due to excess. Thanks for that. :P

The article starter has earned a lot of community kudos, and such articles offer a bounty for quality replies.