Why Would Windows 7's Success Necessarily Doom Linux?

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 04, 2009

Perhaps it's inevitable -- people react strongly to hyperbole, it gets them talking, it makes them curious, it's a quick way of making a subject hot. For years, every new MP3 player was met with speculation -- would it be an "iPod Killer?" Perhaps ASUS didn't release new hardware quickly enough before solid competition entered the market, but for a few months last year the term "Eee Killer" was thrown about. Yet, despite the bounty on their heads, iPods and Eees still exist, as do alternative devices.

As Microsoft allowed people to take an early version of Windows 7 out for a test ride, the "-Killer" suffix re-emerged. It's not an "OS X-Killer." It's a "Linux-Killer." I'm sure this is due in large part to the robust netbook market and Apple's absence there. It's interesting that suddenly Linux is seen as competition. It's also intriguing that this is portrayed as the nail in the coffin, and not an opportunity.

Yes, I said opportunity. It is an opportunity resulting from a change in the market. Windows 7's release is an effort to correct the problems Vista had, but it is also a response to the foothold Linux has in certain markets. Microsoft is responding to that pressure, and taking the opportunity now to develop a worthy competitor.

Duncan MacLeod of the Financial Mail wonders if this spells the end for Linux's chances on the desktop. I'm curious as to why it necessarily would? It is open source software, and businesses exist that develop and support open source software. If Microsoft has responded to competition by producing a better operating system than its previous releases, why would open source companies (or even unpaid developers) not respond in kind? This is what drives innovation, and if there's anything to say about the open source process, solid, stable changes come much faster than in a closed setting.

MacLeod states that the Ubuntu desktop looks "dated." I agree that the default settings aren't particularly pretty, but it doesn't take "commandline intervention" to change these settings, either. Looks are often secondary to function (at least when it comes down to crunch time) and while I agree with quoted journalist Ivo Vegter that at times Linux can throw a puzzling error message with a somewhat obscure fix -- it happens in other operating systems as well.

If Windows 7 is released and works well, it isn't a death sentence. It's not even a real blow. It's a challenge, it's a shot at rethinking some code, an opportunity to venture further with other applications, and perhaps even a chance to sit back and say, "This is an area where the rest of the industry needs to catch up to Linux."

Competition can be good. This is why Microsoft needs Linux.