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The For And The Against For Linux

Two responses to things I've written recently are worth commenting on. Both were responses to my post about Windows 7 being more of a previous-version-of-Windows-killer than a Linux-killer -- and both bring up further points to be argued and defended.

Two responses to things I've written recently are worth commenting on. Both were responses to my post about Windows 7 being more of a previous-version-of-Windows-killer than a Linux-killer -- and both bring up further points to be argued and defended.

First, the commentator, under the handle "theoldman59," who questioned the validity of Linux as a present platform of choice:


Why should I limit myself to Linux when I can download just about every Open Source or GPL'd software in either Windows or Linux? Under Windows I get software not even available on Linux and the best software of both worlds. Under Linux I only get the poorer quality Linux based stuff. Why should I limit myself?

Why indeed? It's hard to argue with such a line of reasoning -- in fact, I don't think it's worth arguing with at all. It stems right from someone's needs and not from high-flown ideals about how computing should work, and arguments of that kind are pretty unassailable. But let's take both sides here and see what comes of it.

Argument For The Defense: There's nothing that says Linux-based software is automatically poorer quality, since such assessments tend to be subjective. For everyone out there who swears by Word, I know another person who thinks Word is trash and OpenOffice.org dances circles around it. You pays your money and you takes your frame of reference. Me, I think Word 2007 still has it all over OO.o's Write, but Calc is as good as Excel most any day. If it boils down to experiences and prejudices ...

Argument For The Prosecution: If there's no overriding need to switch, why switch? Especially if you've been a Windows guy; if so, you tend to be a Window guy from then on out. It is possible to run Windows software on Linux via Wine or VirtualBox, the horror stories seem to be about as prevalent as the success stories. For many people, it's just easier to stick with Windows (hey, it came "free" with their PC, right?) and use open source applications, which tend more often than not to turn up on Windows anyway. Still, that's assuming you already have an existing commitment to Windows, real or perceived.

I keep hitting on this because I'm convinced it's going to be one of the big doors through which people will emigrate to Linux. What's more, as it becomes easier to cross-deploy applications across both Windows and Linux with almost exactly the same interfaces -- something I'll follow up on in detail later -- the difference between the two closes all the more.

Dave Methvin's probably right in that Windows isn't going to be unseated any time soon from its position of desktop dominance. I'm fine with that. Things unfold at their own pace. If people have no particular reason to stay with Windows over time, and if Linux offers them the same things (or better) for less money (or no money at all), why should they limit themselves?

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer