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Sun's Mad Hatter

Fri Aug 15 11:03:50 GMT 2003 Sun's Mad Hatter

Sun announces the upcoming release of its Mad Hatter, which apparently is going to be a Linux based something or other.

According to Sun, the OS will provide 80% of Windows functionality.

Pardon me while I take a deep breath and compose myself. As much as I would like to say "That's great", as much as I would like to believe that corporations world-wide will rush out to replace Windows desktops with Linux, it's not going to happen, and that 80% is why. Maybe Sun really has something here, maybe they've really put together the Very Best Linux yet - it doesn't matter, because 80% just doesn't cut it.

There are some of us out here who are willing to put up with 80%, or 70% or whatever we think we are getting with our Linux or Macintosh systems. I even have a few clients who are mostly "Windows free", but they are rare. Most people are not willing to put up with the difficulties, no matter what benefits of security and performance are there.

Even I run Windows because I like Quickbooks, and though Sun might argue that they can provide that functionality with X, Y or Z, the fact is that they cannot. Until Quickbooks runs on Linux or Mac OS X, I will keep using Windows for that. And I don't mean some bastard child version that always lags two or three releases behind.

More importantly, most of the accounting applications for small to medium size businesses only support Windows. There are exceptions, of course, but even those that are smart enough to run their server on Unix/Linux often require a Windows client.

And then there are spreadsheets and Word documents. Don't tell me about Open Office and all that: I know, it's all great, and you can very often read Microsoft files. But you can't depend on that 100%, and unless and until Microsoft moves to XML (which they may do), there will always be documents you can't access or that are screwed up when not opened by real Microsoft apps.

No, Sun, it's not going to happen. Not until vendors like Quickbooks and innumerable others start offering non-Windows versions. Look-alike and 80% apps aren't enough, and the only thing that could change that would be if most vendors could cross-compile with absolutely no code changes. That's a tall order.

But other folks remain more optimistic than I: Waiting for the Year of the Linux Desktop says "the Linux desktop dream seems closer to reality than ever before". They think that the ever increasing cost of running Windows will push more and more folks to Linux. Well, if it happens, that might cause more apps to be ported here and there, and maybe eventually you reach the tipping point where people have to port or risk losing too many customers to a competitor who will. But I won't be holding my breath.

The server market is, of course, a different story: http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/22080.html says Linux server use continues to grow. Nothing wrong with that, though I still see a lot of resistance from IT workers who only know Windows.

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