Why Linux will crush Windows 7

January 14, 2009 5:19 PM EST
I've been toying with Windows 7 for a few days now. I'm not ready yet to talk about it in detail yet, but I can say that it's better than Vista SP1. Of course, saying 7 is better than Vista isn't saying much. However, I recently read a Network World column, which claims that Windows 7 will crush Linux. Yeah, and the Detroit Lions are going to win the Super Bowl this year.

Desktop Linux is moving forward. All the major computer vendors are now selling at least one PC, laptop or netbook with Linux. Many, if not most, PCs and netbooks will have SplashTop Linux soldiered right on their motherboard in 2009. Netbooks, the new hot computer model, often have Linux running on them. And, oh yeah, some company named Google seems to be making some interesting moves with Android Linux on netbooks. Oh, and have I mentioned that Windows' market share has actually dropped below 90% of the desktop market.

Windows 7 also isn't going to make friends with today's XP users. True, lots of people seem to really like Windows 7 at this early stage. I think what we're really seeing though is just Windows users who are thrilled that 7 hasn't proved to be a total waste of bytes the way Vista was.

Just because Windows 7 doesn't suck dead groundhogs through rusty Chevy tailpipes doesn't mean it's good however. As InfoWorld reviewer Randall Kennedy so succinctly put it: "Windows 7 looks like Vista, and it runs like Vista. Welcome to Windows Vista R2!."

Desktop Linux, as the powerhouse trio of Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu shows, is continuing to increase performance and add new valuable features with every six-month or so step forward. And, of course, Linux remains far more secure and stable than any version of Windows ever has been or will be.

So, how exactly is Windows 7 going to 'crush' Linux? First, the author makes broad claims that, "Windows 7 installs easier, has simpler configuration of user settings, greater availability of software, support (you could argue that all support is awful, which is probably true) Windows support is easier to get when you need help. Gaming, MP3's… I could go on and on."

Ah... what is he talking about? I install operating systems all the time, and Linux and its software has become almost mindlessly simple to install. If you want absolute and complete control of an operating system, it's Linux and the BSD Unixes by a country mile over Windows. As for software choice, come on! Linux has, if anything, too many programs to choose from. Office suites, IM clients, media players, you name it; you have half-a-dozen decent choices in Linux. Windows? You can pick between Microsoft's product and maybe one or two others. That's it.

I'm also unclear on this 'support' stuff. I find it as easy to get support for Linux as I do for Windows. The one difference is that I usually get the right answers for my Linux problems. MP3s? What about them? All my Linux media players can play them. There are some that can't? The sole point where he is right is that Linux doesn't have as many flashy games as Windows. Personally, however, I'll take a PlayStation 3 or other game console over any PC for top-flight gaming.

Moving to the specific, the author seems to think that it's 1999 when he says that since 7 will have a decent command shell, PowerShell, Linux users won't have that to hold against Windows anymore. Pardon? PowerShell has been around for a long time, and it's great that Microsoft finally figured out that a shell is darn handy for system administrators, but that's old news. Besides, the interface debates in Linux circles have long been about GUIs-GNOME vs. KDE 3.5.x vs. KDE 4.x-not BASH vs. C. vs. tsch.

He also thinks that since Windows users have finally figured out that open-source software is useful that will somehow lead to Linux being crushed. I just don't see the connection there at all. If anything, it's another reason for why the Linux desktop will gain in popularity. If all you do at work can be done with Firefox and OpenOffice, why would you want to pay for Windows 7 when any Linux PC can give you the same programs?

Last, and least, he gives a laundry list of features. I didn't see a one that's also not available on Linux. Well, that's not quite true. He actually likes UAC (User Account Control). He's the only person I've ever even heard of who likes UAC. It is, I will say, better in 7 than it is in Vista. To me, that means it's only three, four generations behind Linux's use of file and program permissions and sudo for managing how much control any one user has over a PC.

Windows 7 is just warmed over Vista. It's great that with 7 Vista may actually be usable now, but it's Linux, not Windows, that's leading the way to the future of the desktop. Linux won't crush Windows anytime soon. There are just too many people who are married to Windows. But, the slow crush of Windows by both Mac OS and Linux has begun.