Microsoft will maintain its dominant position among operating system providers even if Linux achieves technical superiority in the future, due to Microsoft's legacy hold on not only computing users, but also the larger industry.
So says http://www.technewsworld.com/story/52966.html, anyway.
My immediate response is "those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it." I bet you could find something from the early 80's that made equally assertive predictions about Wang and Dec's entrenched position in the computer market. Heck, they owned the minicomputer field AND were moving into PC's. How could they fail?
Well, they did. It may be true that the average person is too dim witted to know what's good for them (in any area, never mind something as techy as computer operating systems), but that's relatively unimportant. Microsoft is besot by danger and trouble from without and within, and smart people are starting to understand that.
This week I finished up a conversion from Windows to Linux. As explained at the referenced article, we did this transfer because of apparently unresolvable database problems, but now that the work is done, I doubt you could get the customer to switch back without threats of violence. Reports that took hours to run on Windows now finish in minutes, reports that took minutes run so quickly that users think they did not run until they hear the printer warming up! Of course a large part of this is because it's a relatively small database in a machine with a lot of ram and little need for it: Linux's aggressive caching really shines here. But there are other issues: it's a lot easier to give them more features now and we've already started exploiting that. As time goes on, they'll be even more happy with Linux, and I know that experience is repeatable in other places: Linux IS superior to Windows, and it's not all that hard to see it.
Yeah, yeah, that's server, not desktop. Desktop is harder because fragmentation (six zillion Linux distros) makes it harder to get mind share, and if Linux does catch Average Joe's attention, the multiple distro choices will throw him into helpless confusion. OK, but that doesn't help keep Microsoft on top forever.
Microsoft's days are numbered. If they screw up with Vista, that number may be much smaller than anyone now thinks. Any technological problem or even medical scare (National Enquirer says high Ghz machines cause cancer!) or economic downturn could make the pricey hardware necessary for Vista a big problem even if Microsoft's young buck programmers don't trip over their shoelaces. Microsoft CAN fail, and nobody knows that better than Gates and Ballmer.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2011-05-01 Anthony Lawrence