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Linux and Microsoft Windows Future

Posted 03-19-2009 at 06:55 PM by Lsatenstein

I work with both Linux and Windows XP. The latter software, in a Microsoft software based organization.

On the Linux based forum web sites that I visit, the subscribers cheer every time a Linux system displaces a major Microsoft one. The converse is true in the Microsoft camps, because of the argument “How can you make money with free software?”

In the minds of these Linux forum subscribers, Microsoft is the enemy. Then we read about Microsoft’s reactions. Microsoft will give schools free Microsoft software with the objective of catching the student when he is young and from familiarity, he will be your proponent for life. Though not part of this discussion, we also have the Apple MAC which is a third party in the competition for your addiction.

From my perspective, Microsoft may soon little care if you run Linux, Mac, Vista or Windows 7. Microsoft has a strategy titled “software plus”, directed at the corporate world. With this strategy Microsoft is expanding its application portfolio well beyond the desktop. Microsoft is developing and marketing software that ties you to its graphics and function libraries, MS’s canned business applications and MS’s version of “cloud computing”. Your application will be required to be Open Data Base Connectivity (ODBC) capable, web-browser based, have Silverlight, Sharepoint and more. Aside from providing links to SQL Server, SharePoint interfaces, and Office 2007, or whatever later version is marketed, Microsoft will be there with its products for Corporate world. While Microsoft will prefer you to use its desktop platforms, they will accommodate others.

For large corporations, the desktop world will be Microsoft based, while for the smaller businesses, a competing and compelling alternate environment will be based on Linux. Here is why I think as I do.


Fear

Older employees have a fear of needing to learn something different. I guess the same fear is with governments and institutions that have to read past versions of electronic data and future ones. That fear is the likely the inability to read archived data that was stored forty to fifty years ago and the fear that documents produced today with Microsoft Office Software will not be readable twenty years from now. If we want to read older documents where the software and hardware used to create them is obsolete, the problem will be costly as eventually there will be a future cost of having to convert documents from the original format to a universal timeless format ---XML. This requirement takes them away from the Microsoft Office suite to Open Office, a freeware product that is essentially Microsoft Office compatible, and is able to read files created in XML, an ISO standard file ASCII (text) definition. Microsoft has been opposed to XML due to the fact that by producing XML output, competing products will invade its product’s territory.


Technology

The Netbook is the new hardware that runs Linux. Prices start from about $200. Rumor has it that in 2009, a lower cost version will be available to the public. It is bound to eat into Microsoft sales, as surveys show that most home use for the laptop is to surf the web, use the webcam for real-time conversations, or to email associates.

One of the ways that Linux could cross over to corporate business would be for Free and Open Source (FOSS) business systems to provide competitive alternate SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) functionality with costs solely based on optional maintenance. The low-cost and highly functional applications that are alternatives to Microsoft offerings are beginning to appear. Surprisingly, many have almost the same or equivalent business functionality. By 2010, some software on the Linux platforms will have functionality above that offered by the alternative vendors.

For more information about FOSS applications, search the web for Open Source ERP, Open Source Accounting, Open Source Web Servers, etc.


Application Quality

What about the quality of FOSS software? Thus far, quality has been above average, at a superb level. This statement is based on the concepts of FOSS. Around the world, there are a vast number of skilled developers who program for joy, and who do it for mental/technical gratification. (There is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of gratification). Anyone can join a product user group and subscribe to their forums. With a chief development core of users, end-users and people who may have never met face to face, and with testers from around the world, a product launch or upgrade is generally with fewer bugs per thousand lines of code, then any commercial package. Open Source pre-releases and post releases are scrutinized and tested by ten thousand eyes, before upgrades or patches are transferred from testing to release version. Microsoft also has its world of testers, and these are mainly internal employees.


Virus Immunity

The file system and architecture of Linux are such that virus impregnation is virtually impossible. Two types of security are available and implemented. One system has to do with file permissions, and the other has to do with whitelisting/program permissions. A file may have properties of being readable, writeable and executable. These properties are determined by the owner. Whitelisting permissions are rules that indicate what that program is allowed to do. For example, a video handler is not allowed to execute other programs or write to a file. Anti-virus programs do exist in Linux, but these are to protect mail that is received and forwarded to non-Linux applications.


Open Source

Microsoft is a closed shop. Microsoft owns the code and it is confidential and proprietary. Some of their codes are patented business routines. Linux only uses public domain open source code without patents. (Actually, there is a big discussion before the courts in the United States concerning software patents. – Are ideas or mathematical algorithms patentable because the idea is implemented on a computer?) Microsoft does Quality Control, with test system drivers, and with beta test sites. Yes, Microsoft code is functional, but we see the results with the numerous issues of service packs. Microsoft, and other vendors are moving to a form of open source; closed to public but open to licensees. As an aside, IBM did this as far back as the 1950’s, with optional microfiche as the delivery vehicle. IBM promotes Linux. Microsoft has indicated that by 2012, many of their new applications will be open source.


Applications

Cloud computing, ODBC to databases (MySQL/Postgress), Web servers (Apache), Telephone PBXs (Asterix), and a large quantity of excellent FOSS software for the enterprise is available to Linux. Microsoft developed the .net architecture, and Linux matches it with “mono”. Back in the 1980’s IBM developed Lotus Notes. As IBM is a Linux shop, it migrated Notes to Linux and has made the SharePoint alternative -- Lotus notes application, free and open, and available for download. As well as Google with its cloud computing products is in the process of eroding the Microsoft install base. Whatever major business application is available in the Microsoft environment is also available in Linux. Nevertheless, Microsoft is king of business applications, with more of them then the combined offerings by third parties.

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