February 17, 2009
So, is Windows 7 really a Linux-killer? Does Linux finally have Microsoft on the ropes? Maybe both sides in this "debate" need to step off and get a grip.If you want an example of someone who gets the Windows 7 versus Linux issue right, check out Serdar Yegulalp's latest article at InformationWeek.com. Serdar's premise is clear and very refreshing: Both operating systems offer their own, often unique, benefits and drawbacks. "There's fierce debate in the air about what 7 means for both Windows and Linux. Microsoft's last gasp? Linux's formidable new enemy? Closer inspection shows us it's not really either of those things. Linux has made strides of its own on the desktop and made it possible to build netbooks at low cost--and while Windows 7 will almost certainly take a bite out of that market and impress existing Windows users all the more, Linux has also become its own animal." Think that sounds obvious? Given all the claims that one side is poised finally to polish off the other side, I'm not so sure.
Although Serdar doesn't spell it out here, I think his comparison of Linux and Windows 7 offers an important subtext. While it is clear that a lot of Microsoft's work on WIndows 7 was a direct response to its difficulties with Windows Vista, it's not a stretch to see that some improvements would not have happened if Linux didn't represent a legitimate competitive threat. (One word: netbooks.) Conversely, Windows 7 delivers a clear message to every Linux distributor aiming for a piece of the business IT market: Aim high, execute flawlessly, and deliver amazing service -- or save yourselves the trouble and don't even bother trying. Also keep in mind that no matter how hard Microsoft and its adversaries fight for market share, one concept is now inviolate on both sides: interoperability. Five years ago, for example, Microsoft was still doing its best to derail Samba; today, Andrew Tridgell and his colleagues are welcome visitors in Redmond, working with Microsoft's own engineers to ensure that Samba 4 is fully interoperable with Windows' native networking protocols. Spinning this contest as a zero-sum game might make for some hot copy. But the truth is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting.
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