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Windows Desktop… for linux? October 9, 2006

Posted by oktyabr in desktop, linux, opinions, personal.

That is a question mark at the end of the title so that means this is a post about a >question<…

Specifically… Why not?

Here is my rough-hewn logic…

Microsoft is loosing market share to Apple, Linux, FreeBSD and kin rapidly and the growth of this new market doesn’t seem to be slowing, especially with places like South America adopting alternative OSs with fervor and China only now beginning to break into the real “information age” (Google “china linux adoption”), we could soon be approaching a very special event horizon in history where Microsoft is suddenly NOT the leader in desktop and server OS marketshare!

Let’s step back a bit… It takes YEARS for Microsoft to make the leap from one major release of it’s desktop OS to another (hence “Windows 98″… followed by “Windows 2000”, etc.) and as desktop usage worldwide grows so does the problems associated with it. More and more, I fear, MS spends much of it’s man hours fixing security holes and patching it’s proprietary software… It’s a lot of work to stay on top!

Meanwhile patches and new versions for popular opensource software are released monthly or even DAILY. A couple hundred of the best programmers MS can hire (presumably for BIG $$$$) vs thousands of opensource programmers and bugsquishers world wide?

Many tech analysists seem to be gathering around a theory that as open source gains momentum, closed source (Microsoft and Apple) are loosing momentum… Very few true computer geeks would shy away from a bet about the future of IE vs Firefox and Family, for instance, or on a larger scale Linux in general… It has to be more and more difficult for companies like MS to make the same profit from it’s OS products, year to year.

So why even do it?

Here is what I would be curious to see… Let’s just suppose Microsoft abandoned a proprietary kernel and OS altogether in favor of a dedicated, even “closed source” desktop enviroment that would lay on top of an open source OS like debian linux, for example, much the way that KDE or Gnome do now?

This reduces the work load dramatically. No longer is MS *dependant* on securing it’s OS because it’s not in that game anymore. Of course I would expect a company like MS to donate to OSS projects, both money and manpower, to help improve the base that this new hypothetical product hinges on, but it would still have a much less development cost and timespan than what they are currently dealing with now.

Instead they could spend their real resources developing the next best linux desktop enviroment ever. At least if you are Windows-centric 😉 Suppose you put a coworker in front of a desktop that for all intents and purposes *looked* just like Windows and behaved just like Windows? Would there be many problems?

Ok, but what about software, you might ask? I imagine in such a scenario that MS would develope their very own “compatibility layer”, much like the WINE project for linux. This could be integrated into the MS desktop enviroment or sold seperately… up to them. The point is who has a better ability to make sure Windows software runs on linux than Microsoft? They could even port over Direct X. There are a lot of possibilities here…

So why is this even important? Well not only is Microsoft trying to roll a snowball up a mountain, one that just keeps getting bigger and more difficult to push, but it’s also getting more expensive to do so. It’s been reported, for example, that the “Ultimate” version of Windows Vista, due early next year (for consumers), will retail somewhere around US$400!!! I can buy a whole computer for that! And hardware prices keep falling…

Where is the threshhold, before consumers STOP buying, because the OS costs X amount of times more than the hardware it runs on? Is it $200 for the OS on a $400 computer (1/2)? Is it 1/1? Is it 4/1 (four times as much money for the OS as the machine it runs on)? Add to this the escalating adoption, worldwide, of FREE OSs like linux and freebsd and where does it hit the point where Microsoft either just gives up or becomes a non-profit? Sooner or later it will happen.

Back to the specific topic Microsoft developing for linux (or bsd, or whatever) would mean that second party software developers could once again focus on a smaller pool of market groups. Game designers, for example, could code a product that runs on either linux and/or MS’s desktop (on top of linux) via it’s proprietary compatibility layer. Hardware manufacturers, once again dealing with a single kernel structure, could focus on a much larger and cohesive market in regards to driver development. Will it run on KDE? Gnome? (linux?) Will it run on Windows Desktop? Doesn’t matter as long as they use the same kernel!

So… imagine a time not to far away…

Your new computer will cost $250 for the hardware. KDE, Gnome, Fluxbox, whatever, will run on a linux on the hardware just fine, for F-R-E-E. Microsoft’s latest and greatest is… let’s say… halfway between XP Pro and Vista Ultimate… US$300. A Microsoft Desktop enviroment, with included software compatibility layer (making all your windows software and games work as they would under a true MS OS) is $100. Which would you buy and use?



1. meowkaat - October 14, 2006

I tag thee.

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