Windows becoming irrelevant, if not obsolete???

Story: Are You Replacing Windows with GNU/Linux?Total Replies: 31
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Dec 05, 2005
9:43 AM EDT
Whew, how do we get to that conclusion? I am a huge Linux fan and use it everywhere I can including work and home. I help other people convert when possible and turn down job offers if they are Windows-centric.

But with all due respect, I don't understand this statement:

"So, while Windows commands the lead in the general OS marketplace, it is also on the verge of becoming irrelevant, if not obsolete."

Maybe if it was phrased this way:

So, while Windows commands the lead in the general OS marketplace, it is also on the verge of becoming irrelevant, if not obsolete for the 3-5% of people that already use GNU/Linux and don't use Windows to play recent games.

Until PC vendors stop bundling Windows with every sale, the multi-billion dollar cash flows won't stop going to Microsoft. Until businesses start to replace Office with, the multi-billion dollar cash flows won't stop going to Microsoft. Look at how the fight over OpenOffice went in the state of Massachusets. Unhappy outcome.

I wish Windows was becoming obsolete, but I don't see it happening soon. There is some hope that Google will create enough free tools and applications that work in Firefox that the underlying OS won't matter, but even then, I think the migration away will take a very long time.

Dec 05, 2005
10:03 AM EDT
Essentially, my point is that there is a limited number of issues preventing users from being able to make the switch. I did not forecast the downfall of Microsoft by the end of next week. However, it is a matter of time before Windows loses its value as a "must have" OS. I agree the tipping point is probably when the major manufacturers get bold enough to quit doing exclusives with Microsoft. Even with Microsoft's exclusives, however, they lose the real prize (people using their OS) every time one person shares GNU/Linux with four or five friends.

Dec 05, 2005
10:33 AM EDT
You are absolutely right about the limited number of issues preventing users from switching. Your points about the feasibility of a mass switch are well taken. However, I think you underestimate the inertia of the average computer user.

You and I, and really all the frequent visitors at, are not average computer users. We have taken a lot of initiative to explore other operating systems and educate ourselves. In the IT department where I work, I passed out a half-dozen or so Xandros open circulation CDs for people to give Linux a try since it is one of the easiest distros for a Windows user. Only one person bothered to take it home and run it. That one person is now enamored with Linux, but the other people either don't have the time or haven't endured enough pain with Windows. And these are computer savvy geeks. If they can't be persuaded to even try Linux on the desktop, how much can we expect from the general population?

It really opened my eyes about how far and fast Linux on the desktop will spread, at least in the U.S. I admit my anecdotal experience could be way off, and I hope it is.

Dec 05, 2005
10:37 AM EDT
dcparris, I don't buy that MS will become' irrelevant' any time soon. They'ill always have a market share. I do think that Linux has already started to become the 'must have' or at least a 'ya gotta try'. Once they do try it, there's a good chance they'll drop MS like a hot potato.

Dec 05, 2005
10:49 AM EDT
Again, I did not speak time-wise in my article. I only spoke about application support. Now that I think about it, I might have made that a bit more clear. Also note that one single application could send Windows to the circular file for many people at once.

Dec 05, 2005
10:54 AM EDT
I saw a monopoly become irrelevant in two years and another major market leader fall in five years. So, don't think it isn't possible. I'd like to have some hand in making sure that Microsoft declares for bankruptcy protection.

I was at IBM when they had 95% of the PC hardware market. In two years it went to 5%.

I watched Novell go from whatever it was to nothing in a five year period.

I also saw WordPerfect, Lotus, Borland fall off the face of the planet.

I saw a football team up by 35 at the half lose and a pro basketball team up by 40 at the end of the third quarter lose by 2 in Los Angeles.

Aside from all that, the executives at Microsoft only play tough because they're scared as hell someone will find out about them. They're really nerds, dorks, seriously flawed people. The only thing that has kept them a floast is their lawyers and show me a lawyer who isn't an alcoholic and I'll show you a lawyer who is a drug addict. (no offense intended Dino).

Microsoft: They're coming down.

Dec 05, 2005
10:59 AM EDT
Quoting:Until PC vendors stop bundling Windows with every sale

We're working on that! Though, this may take some long time, but a start is made.

Check (I see you already read it)

I'm collaborating with Windowsrefund.indo since last weekend, and there will be more coming up on this.

Dec 05, 2005
11:04 AM EDT
You *do* have a point Tom. I didn't really try to make a time prediction though. I just wanted to point out that, for many people, Windows can become a moot point when these last few chips fall. At that point, it really is a matter of time before it becomes totally obsolete.

Dec 05, 2005
11:20 AM EDT
The cell phone, and PDA's may do more to undermine Windows than Linux. More businesses are moving to web-hosted apps that are desktop independent. Those businesses are not planning to get rid of Windows on the desktop, but they are positioning themselves for more flexibility in application delivery.

In ten years how many gig of RAM do you think your smart phone will have? Business apps will be presented to the user community on platforms that rarely see the top of a desk. Linux will be a cheap and stable way to run those devices. The cost of the OS will be a major part of overall cost of these new devices. Microsoft will be obsoleted not by direct competition, but by their core market place becoming a limited niche in a much larger world.

If a Monopoly is trying to sell software with a few hundred percent mark-up into a competitive market place like that, they will fail.

Microsoft still has people who remember when they were a small time shop in Albuequerque, NM.

Microsoft still has Gobs of money.

I think they will still be around in the future, but they will have to have a conversion somewhere outside of Damascus before they are ready for it.

Dec 05, 2005
11:32 AM EDT
Quoting:Linux will be a cheap and stable way to run those devices. The cost of the OS will be a major part of overall cost of these new devices.

Interesting point, while this is not only true for mobile devices, but for computers for developing countries as well. There's the OLPC project, which may lead to 50-150 million children in developing countries using Linux. Now, those are the people doing our salary administration in the future. Then there's Intels deal in China, to get hundreds of millions of Linux-pc's to the rural population.

Dec 05, 2005
8:43 PM EDT
It will be like firefox in the end there will be an actual reason for every user to move.. At the moment yes there are applications which stop some users, but when these are over come. And that one App comes out only on linux then that will cause the exodus..

It is more what i want... that drives the users...

If we looked at home computers in the US and did a BSA check.. Then the exodus would happen instantly..

Ask the question how much is legal? and that is the same with the games how much is legal?


Dec 06, 2005
3:39 AM EDT
Microsoft will suffer for the same reason many people in the late 80s and 90s thought the end was nigh for IBM: It is acting like a monopolist protecting its position. Strip away the monopoly power, and you have a lousy competitor.

In the 80s, IBM was treating the pc as another platform it could monopolize, with the PS/2, OS/2, microchannel, etc. With its monopoly hat on, IBM sought to prevent its other, more lucrative, lines -- minicomputers and even mainframes -- from being damaged by cheap pcs.

Unfortunately for IBM:

1. Microsoft had refused to sell all rights to PC-DOS, granting only a non-exclusive license 2. Phoenix had cloned the IBM BIOS 3. Compaq didn't give a rat's ass about IBM's minicomputers, and became the first company to sell a 386-based PC, thus taking both the technical and mind-share leads.

That's the real reason why Firefox is doing so well. Microsoft, being its monopoly-minding self, hasn't bothered to make IE compelling.

While we're on the topic of lazy monopolists -- can anybody here think of a single thing about Microsoft Office that makes it compelling if you remove the monopoly advantage of its closed file format?


Dec 06, 2005
4:57 AM EDT
Quoting:While we're on the topic of lazy monopolists -- can anybody here think of a single thing about Microsoft Office that makes it compelling if you remove the monopoly advantage of its closed file format?

Sure: Head-to-head cubicle competitions wherein you see who can produce the single longest wiggly green line. Oh, yeah, and the boss has to be away that day, too.

For you "managers" out there: formattting a 20-question test about Java or C or C++ in "Word". Make sure all the questions are of the "language lawyer" variety, and included "None of the above" as an answer on all or most questions. The autocapitalization feature combined with other nifty occasions when "Word" knows best will typeset your carefully-chosed questions as ambiguous gibberish! Watch the next job applicant try to determine whether he or she should answer "None of the above" based on "Word" having gibberized the premise of the question, or give the correct answer if you assume "Word" did some gibberizing! Fun for all ages of backslapping gladhanders!

Dec 06, 2005
6:40 AM EDT
Yup. Market forces do act. As inexorably as glacial forces. And often with the same legendary speed. Sometimes it would speed things up a bit if government would step in and hurry things along. Just as often (more often?) government influence is used to prolong the duration of the monopoly.

But eventually the monopolist itself finds that fair competition is not attractive to them. They start to think "Hey we can do this *to* our customers" instead of "Hey, we can do this *for* our customers".

One can only hope that this is one of the faster moving glaciers.

Dec 06, 2005
7:52 AM EDT
"can anybody here think of a single thing about Microsoft Office that makes it compelling if you remove the monopoly advantage of its closed file format?"

Excel. Word, Powerpoint, and Access are obnoxious. But Excel is a well-crafted powerhouse. I believe it was created by someone else and purchased by m$, but I still have to give them credit for its development since then.

Dec 06, 2005
8:26 AM EDT
Yes, I am, One Gentoo, three Ubuntu. Spyware problems were the last straw, I'm shooting them all. I've been using Linux at work for about 10 years as I was a Unix sys-admin. Now I'm a storage consultant but since I work with mostly Unix machines Linux works better for me than Windows. The only thing I don't have access to that the Windows boxes do is the shared calendar on Exchange via my mail client, Evolution. But I can get to it via web-browser so I'm not totally without it.

The biggest problem is the IE only web pages, our time reporting is via the web on one such site. So I installed VMware and have to use Internet Exploder to input my time/billing. (VMware runs as processes on top of Linux).

I used Crossover Office for a while which let me run some Windows programs more natively but it was just much time being spent fooling with stuff so I simplified and am only using VMware. Once I got a laptop with 1GB RAM it's been really good, fast, solid. Ubuntu is the perfect distro for this, it just works, everything, wireless, hibernation, suspend, very, very good.


Dec 06, 2005
8:51 AM EDT
Tuxchick, I got to disagree with your acessment of Access. IMO that may be to only unique and invaluable general purpose tool that MS ever came out with. Untill recently, Linux had nothing remotely similar. Knoda is rappidly filling that gap, it's getting there, but still isn't quite as easy to work with..


Dec 06, 2005
9:18 AM EDT
Frankly, my Dad hates MS Access. O.k., so he still longs for the old AppleWorks suite that he had with his Apple IIe (or whatever it was). Still, others have longed for the return of the old Lotus database - I got to play with that once myself. I just never had time to learn more about it, but it really was pretty cool. Some folks I know in marketing loved it. They loathed the switch to MS Access.

Dec 06, 2005
10:20 AM EDT
Quoting:The biggest problem is the IE only web pages, our time reporting is via the web on one such site.

Have you considered / tried Winetools for did? Sadly it didn't work out on my Gentoo-box, but it promises to run IE (!) on Linux without VMWare.

Did you also consider Win4Lin? I think it might be cheaper than VMWare, not sure however.

Dec 06, 2005
11:09 AM EDT
jimf - it's been a long time, but Access had this funny feature that I cannot quite remember when upon deletion odd things happened with the records (rows - if you like table syntax). Then I found out it had been present for years in all earlier versions. I have no idea if it was ever corrected.

Not too long ago I had a fling with SQL Server - I am fairly proficient coding using Transact-SQL in Sybase and that's the language MS uses, although with the usual enhancements. I was appalled to see them throw away one of the strengths inherent in Sybase: temporary tables, which Sybase has really enhanced with version (or quite near to). Then I believe it was something with a cursor command that boggled my mind - multiple commands (from memory now) not being quite right. No problem, they created a new command, but that lost you a very important ability I thought was needed that the other commands had.

Well as a simple database, Access may suffice, however, given MS's history I would be very careful on the degree to which I relied upon it.

Dec 06, 2005
12:14 PM EDT
dcparris, I don't want to get into archaic apps and what used to be superior solutions (sometimes on different platforms) We've all had our favorites which are no longer possible options. I have my wish list for those too. Unless you're very good at porting, you are probably SOL. I and a number of other people have been 'begging' Kim Henkel at ZTree to port to Linux... Now that would double my productivity! :)

Dec 06, 2005
12:15 PM EDT
TxtEdMacs, The earlier versions of Access were pretty bad, By the 2K version it was quite stable. I'm not at all suggesting that Access is very extensible, or an enterprise solution, but for an indvidual or even a small office, it was quite viable.

Three years ago, when I first started getting serious with Linux, there was nothing that really matched that function... sure there were plenty of databases, but the front end tools were terrible and entirely targeted at the server rather than the desktop. Most of the database solutions in linux are in fact, way overkill for a database used on the individual desktop.

Fortunately, we've now got knoda, which in conjunction with sqlite very nice as a individual or small business solution. Actually, it now has drivers to extend the interface to any of the more extensible databases, so, knoda has already become a must have tool. Ah... and it also imports MDB, so I don't have to go through hoops to import my previous data.

Dec 06, 2005
2:49 PM EDT
I used Knoda to connect to a MySQL back-end as a test, but never had the time to get beyond that. That was under SUSE 9.2. OOoBase uses SQLite embedded, and looks like Access. So I guess there is some choice in the must have department.

Dec 06, 2005
3:41 PM EDT
You need to try Knoda again dcparris. It's come a long way since you tried it.

Dec 06, 2005
7:47 PM EDT
I didn't think it was underpowered, just didn't have time to use it. I get pulled 20 different directions and never get back to half the stuff I get started with. I'll check it out next chance I get.

Dec 07, 2005
5:44 AM EDT
I hate to throw a wet blanket on all this with my first post[1], but I think the one thing that will continue to slow the adoption of linux (at least in the home) has been left out; namely rich media web content. I'm talking about simple things like clicking on a link and actually being able to view a video through my web browser. And this speaks back to the philosophy behind Linux; namely the FLOSS philosophy. Such a thing will never be implemented in the current environment of patents, copyrights that deny fair use, etc., by any major distribution. But until a Linux vendor steps up and licenses the CSS stuff, thereby being able to ship a working encrypted DVD player, and licenses all the major codecs so that a media player can legally play all major formats out of the box, most home users aren't going to care about linux for the same reasons discussed between dcparris and slippery. But when I talk to people, something to do with multimedia not working tends to come up at some point, and is usually the reason that those who do try linux and don't switch over make that decision. The conversations can usually be boiled down to "I click in windows and it works, linux just A) gives me an error, or B) is a PITA to get working. And even though I've been using Linux for around 7 years now (SuSE > RH > Fedora > Kubuntu), I have to admit that this is my biggest sore spot, and I still have trouble getting things like surround sound and the ability to get multiple sound apps running at once working.

However, that said, it would be extremely easy for an IBM or HP to step up and deliver such a solution, replacing the pre-bundled Windows with a pre-bundled Linux solution and using the cost of the OEM windows license to pay for the dvd decoder and codecs required, along with pre-configuring everything needed to get all the other multimedia stuff working. I would love to see someone do something like this with K/Ubuntu (my personal favorite distribution). My concern would be that the more, shall we say "emphatic" members of the community would shred them for including non-FLOSS bits with the system. But I'd probably buy hardware from that company for the same reason I fear many would attack them.

Alternatively, starting a project to reverse engineer all those codecs might be possible, but would be a huge effort and would almost certainly run into a patent minefield (subject for a separate rant), not to mention the possibility of DMCA lawsuits. Certainly this has been the case for DeCSS, which is also a subject for a separate rant. The only other hope would be that Apple, at least, might step up and release a version of QT for Linux, and that someone might start selling a DVD player (or at least sell a Xine or Mplayer plug-in) for encrypted DVDs. I would seriously doubt that we'll see MS Media Player version anything for Linux at any point though, and unfortunately, that denies accessing a lot of content on the web.

1 - Small disclaimer: Most of my boxes at home and at work run Linux or another *NIX, and I don't give a hoot about some of the rulings. I bought the bloody DVD and will bloody well watch it on whatever I want to (I cite fair use doctrine, which hasn't completely been eliminated in the US... yet). But I still fight constantly with getting various codecs working correctly and getting plug-ins to play the nifty stuff I find on the web without crashing my browser or locking up X. So yes, this is a real sore point for me, too. Just not enough of one to keep me from adopting Linux. But for a lot of users, I believe it is, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. And yes, I know I could get a lot of this by just getting a MAC, but I prefer KDE to Carbon, and Linux to OS X. And all of the above to Windows.

Dec 07, 2005
5:53 AM EDT
There are at least 2 distros available today that do everything out of the box, to include browser streaming of just about any media imaginable. Mepis and PCLinuxOS have done so, and while Mepis is shooting for a commerical goal, PCLinuxOS remains free. Texstar has found a way to dance (with great skill I might add) around the various copyrights and laws that prohibit most distros from following suit. If a friggin genius can develop a five-star distro in his free time, why does Ubuntu et al fear the codec reaper? Besides, we have over 135 12 year old girls and boys installing and running PCLinuxOS as their only operating system. I am sure that if someone is having trouble with this OS, one of those children would be happy to tutor the person having difficulty.

beats me...but you need to know there are those that work well for everything. Keeping up with the distros is paramount to effective advocacy.

Dec 07, 2005
8:16 AM EDT
helios, if you want to know why these distributions "fear the codec reaper", just go read a bit on their sites. For this most part, this is illegal (at least in the US and all countries that have reciprocity regarding copyrights and patents via treaties in their laws), especially with respects to encrypted DVDs. I also don't have time to try every distribution out there. Might have something to do with the 12 hour days I tend to put in... I don't know, just a hunch. And while PCLinux is shipping the win32-codec package, they aren't shipping the libdvdcss package, which is needed for encrypted dvd playback and guaranteed to bring down a MPAA DMCA-based lawsuit around you if you ship it. Everything I've heard about Mepis (could be entirely inaccurate) tends to indicate that it uses much older versions of packages.

And I have a newer version of the win32 codec package installed than what PCLinux ships. Still doesn't play several types of media, and getting the plugins to work is still a pain, which is my main point. I wouldn't even mind paying 30-40 bucks if it meant I could stop screwing around with my boxes to come up with various workarounds and just do what I want. I spend enough time trouble-shooting OS and network issues during the day so that when I go home, I don't want to continue to do the same thing. I especially don't want to listen to my wife and kids whine about things not working, which they do a lot since they tend to go to sites that use mainly MS-based stuff and shockwave. They may be abominations against the RFCs, but its what they like, and I gave up long ago trying to educate them as to the differences between sites using standards and sites written by a bunch of CS dropouts using front page.

But none of this detracts from the main point of the author that the barriers *are* falling. I just see this one as one of the bigger ones to wide spread home use. I also have seen that if someone starts using something at home, they tend to bug IS util they get it (instant messaging would be one example). At the same time, if someone doesn't like something for whatever reason, they fight with IS tooth and nail and will even try to make it fail until they get what they do want. If linux begins to appeal to the home user and a large number begin running it there, the corp nets will fall to Linux easily, consumed from the bottom up. There are already some information indicating this may be happening in a limited capacity, based on some recent surveys of those who've adopted linux.

Dec 07, 2005
10:14 AM EDT
rob_hughes: Thanks for bringing up the web media aspect of this issue. Granted, my response pool was fairly small, but I am surprised that no one mentioned multi-media - web or otherwise. This is the kind of thing I hoped this article would bring out.

Dec 08, 2005
2:21 AM EDT
rob,dc, et al ---

I my glass half-full way, I would like to think that the media thing will rise to the top of the list when desktop potential reaches the tipping point.

Legal, not technical, barriers make it what it is. Legal barriers are cleared away with license fees, a fact of life in the real world.

Dec 08, 2005
4:28 AM EDT
I wouldn't even mind paying 30-40 bucks if it meant I could stop screwing around with my boxes to come up with various workarounds and just do what I want......


I have a disk with a "multimedia survival kit" I carry with me when doing installs of Kanotix, Ubuntu, opensuse....any of the distro's that don't have the stuff we need. I too am a bit exasperated by the lack of support for these features and honestly, it is a huge stumbling block to those who advocate Linux in the face of the Redmond Beast.

There is promising rumor of a "linux solution" for these problems, but I don't know any more than "it's coming...just wait".


Dec 09, 2005
5:41 AM EDT

Yes, that's my main point; that there are many legal, not technical, obstacles. The primary ones are, of course, that companies have patented various ways of moving 1s and 0s around so that we can't implement anything to read/write those formats without risking a patent infringement law suit. And given the current environment of an IP (That acronym really galls me. Can't we just say patents, trade secrets and copyrights? Or just PTSC?) feeding frenzy, it appears that many, if not most, companies have given up innovation as the primary source of their profits, and moved to a litigation model. This would make any FLOSS developer/distributor an easy target, and except RH, HP, and IBM (maybe a few others), none really have the deep pockets to try fighting this, giving the MPAA/RIAA, et. al. an easy precedent. And other than the non-free aspects of the various codecs/decoders/plugins, I think that may be one of the real reasons no distribution is shipping the stuff needed to deliver a true linux multimedia solution.


For those of us, myself included, struggling to get this working, if you'd post a list of packages/source tarballs from your survival kit, I'm sure we'd all be grateful.

On a somewhat separate-but-related note, has anyone looked hard at the new HTPC solution coming from Intel/MS? It looks to be extremely (and intentionally) linux-hostile. I'm talking about the VIIV stuff.


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