Goodbye Windows, Hello Linux and Mac, says Google

June 01, 2010 6:02 PM EDT
As everyone knows by now who follows technology news, the Financial Times reported that Google "is phasing out the internal use of Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows operating system because of security concerns." Some doubt this story, because they say that's its vague about sources. Well, I asked, and the story is 'mostly' right. Google is switching away from Windows to Linux and Macs, but it's not just because security.

I e-mailed Google and, according to a Google official, while "We're always working to improve the efficiency of our business, but we don't comment on specific operational matters." That's not much of a statement, but did you notice the key word there? It's 'efficiency.'

I then got on the phone, IM and e-mail with my friends at Google and they told me off-the-record pretty much what the Google employees told the Financial Times that "Many people have been moved away from [Windows] PCs, mostly towards Mac OS, following the China hacking attacks." But, following that efficiency word around, I was also told that Linux was far cheaper than Windows and that many Google users preferred it, in any case, to Windows. While many others found Macs to just be more useful than Windows PCs.

Google's internal users have eclectic tastes when it comes to Linux. Ubuntu was quite popular, but so was-surprise!--Google's own Android; Fedora; openSUSE; and the newly released MeeGo. As for the Mac users, I got the impression there may be more MacBook Pro users at Google than there are at Apple.

The Linux users preferred it for all the usual reasons: It was faster, more secure, and more stable than Windows. In addition, it did everything they needed. As you might guess, Chrome is the Web browser of choice for Google Linux users, and many of them use Google's SaaS (Software as a Service) applications like Google Docs. As one of them told me, "Why should I waste my time with Windows and all its pain in the ass junk when I can do everything I need to do with Chrome on Ubuntu?" The Mac users, in turn, sounded like most people who like Macs. They preferred its interface and applications to those of either Linux or Windows.

Now, some analysts claim that Google's move away from Windows isn't about security at all. Instead, they would have it that it's all about Google positioning itself to do battle with Microsoft and Windows. I'm sure that's part of it too, but for their claims that Windows is secure is just utter and total nonsense. Windows is insecure by design. Always has been, always will be. To pretend that Windows' security costs and failures aren't important to Fortune 500 companies is total balderdash.

Have these fools forgotten that China attacked Google and many other major companies only a few months ago? Do you think sticking with an operating system that's has as many holes in as a fisherman's net make sense? I don't think so! As one staffer told me, "I am not going to be the next guy to hose the company because of Windows."

Sure, Mac OS X has its security problems as well, but, in practice, it's still more secure than Windows. As for Linux, it's more secure than either one, and it's always been much tougher to attack than the others.

There's also been some silly talk about how Google can't really mean that they're switching away from Windows because so many of their users depend on Windows. Uh... what makes you think that just because the rank and file is moving to other operating systems means that the developers aren't going to be using Windows machines? Heck, I'm about as pro-Linux desktop a person on the planet, and I use Windows PCs all the time for reviews. Of course, Google will still use Windows system for development and testing.

I'm also sure that there are some special applications that don't exist on Linux and Macs that will still be running on Windows PCs. But, seriously, what work-a-day jobs can't you do on a Linux PC or Mac these days? Are there any? I can go days without 'needing' to touch my Windows PCs.

My buddy Jason Perlow, who also runs multiple operating systems, has found that he can meet 80% of his computing needs without Windows and for the rest he uses virtualized Windows on Linux. That works for me, and it probably does for Google as well.

The bottom line is that Google wants to be both more secure and more efficient. To do that, it makes perfect sense for them to abandon Windows for Linux and Mac OS X. Come to think of it, it makes perfect sense for most companies as well.