Windows is dead, long live Linux.
DOS was the right thing at the right time and got the ball rolling, then windows came along, copied a lot of good ideas, rolled them together and provided a product which was good enough to eventually bring the PC into the home. Considering the amount of work needed for a company to make and market a product like that, it was worth the price.
From the first versions of windows right up to today the price in relation to the product has not been excessive. Check the price of autoCAD or photoshop and consider how much more development is needed for an OS.
So windows did its job and made Bill a very wealthy man in the process. There was only Apple for competition, and they cost more, so business boomed.
Then along came a worldwide 'mob of hippie hacker terrorists' with no idea about business models or market planning and a thing called GNU/Linux. Why would anyone want something cobbled together by people who don't even wear suits?
98 was the first version of windows I installed, and I must say it wasn't bad. Quite easy to understand, only let down by Microsoft's idea of how long 25 minutes takes. 2000 and XP's installers with there blue screen of birth startup interfaces are not nearly as good.
Red hat 8 was my first attempt with Linux. First impression? 'ooh, that's nice'. And it was. I didn't know a partitioning scheme from an elephants bum so it did it for me. 'Whats a lilo do?, "if your not sure, use the default option", that's me. next'. "Select packages for installation". And I was expecting wordpad and minesweeper. It wanted 6.5GB for my greed, and i only had 6GB. All in all the only problem I, a complete novice, had was deciding which of the hundreds of applications I didn't want to install.
Setting it up:
Drivers. "Please insert disk marked windows 98 in drive D". OK, Disk.....drive....close....click OK......"Please insert disk marked Voodoo 4500 in drive D" OK, Disk.....drive....close....click OK......"Please insert disk marked windows 98 in drive D" Aaaaagggghhhhhh. And when it did install the sound card stopped working. Thing are better now, but not much. Windows update (if you have the net and its working, XP SP1 to SP2 anyone?) finds a driver about 80% of the time, but its usually outdated, so then its time to trawl the net for drivers, and then trawl the net again for the right version drivers... The wizards are sometimes nice though.
RedHat 8. Everything worked. Everything. Thing's I didn't know I had worked, 4 USB ports I didn't know about, plugged in a header and they worked. Screen resolution was at 1024x768 and 24 bit color immediately. Configuration was a pain sometimes (Please don't ever mention ATZ commands) but when i had the net working, folks told me exactly what I needed to do. Thank you to everyone who helps out on forums, especially the folks who have patience for a newbies mistakes. No, it wasn't all click...click...click...working application/indecipherable error message, but it was far more satisfying getting things set up and to know how. And nearly all the error messages made sense.
There seems to be a standard reply when Linux is mentioned to windows 'experts'. "blah blah blah...drivers". Stick a knoppix CD in a PC (with or without the net) and you have to have some pretty esoteric hardware if something isn't working, and its all there on one little CD. Better yet, if something doesn't work then there is a 90% chance it can be got to work with less effort that it takes to trawl the net for alternative drivers and patches for a windows box. And with 100% less bugs and spy-ware.
Here things change. Once you get past the agreements, agreeing to the agreements, entering the serial number, deselecting the 'extra features', installing, registering, filling in the registration form, re-completing the registration form because Elvis already has a copy, re-booting, double-clicking on the icon, finding the missing DLLs, re-booting again, double-clicking on the icon again and starting the application, there really are some great apps for windows. Fortunately most of them will run on wine.
RedHat 8. RPMs are a great idea but (rant. in caps.) why the hell did red hat, and now fedora not include synaptic??? (OK, rant over). I downloaded over 200 dependencies one by one on a 56k connection just to install doom. Then i got to learn all about DRI and tdfx. OK, so i did it wrong, I did it all wrong, picked the wrong distro, was afraid to ask questions and just got of to a bad start. I still had a copy of windows on a partition (for games and to find out about ATX commands) and it was tempting me back. If it wasn't for that best loved windows application, the blue screen of death, it might have claimed me. I switched to debian (long live debian), discovered apt and synaptic and have never looked back.
Native Linux applications may not have all the specialist software covered yet, but for the essentials its rock solid. The applications in the stable tree are STABLE, they have been tested by millions of people worldwide who used them when they where in the testing tree. Those applications have already been tested by millions when they where in the unstable tree. All along the line users have been sending in bug reports and suggestions for improvement. A closed-doors company CANNOT compete with that
So windows has had its day. DOS came at the right time, windows came at the right time, and now in an age when PCs are competing with games consoles, mobile phones, DVDs, TVs , PDAs and god only knows what else (toasters?) for the personal entertainment, multimedia, communications, internet access and home computing market, its the day for Linux. It can run on any kind of platform from wrist watches to mainframes (and selected toasters), be adapted to just about every kind of processor, be given any kind of interface and its free.
Some guy somewhere in Korea could be putting the finishing touches to the latest do-it-all super gadget as you read this. Will he wait 18 months for a team of software engineers to build a proprietary system from the ground up? Will he call up Microsoft looking for a version of CE to run on a kamaguchi heavy industries and bicycle company processor? Or will he have in in the shops within 3 months running on Linux?
Think the PC as we know it will be around forever? The nails are going in the coffin lid for the home PC already. Most home users use the PC for games, web browsing, email, text editing, document storage, image editing, nothing that can make a modern PC break into a sweat. You can do all that on a PlayStation 2 for a lot less cash than a beige box from PC world.
Monitors used to rule for high definition, HDTV is changing that plus games consoles are usually cheaper than a PC built with high end hardware for games.
This is already showing up, Microsoft started expanding their market with the xbox. This was Sony's big thing so the PS3 "has Linux installed". Turns out it doesn't, but yellow dog have a distro for it less than a month after launch. This has the best processor that money can buy, the fastest ram and some of the best graphics hardware, and you can securely run firefox, openoffice and countless other applications that have been through the most intense development and test cycles in the world.
When Joe public can walk into a shop and see things like this on display then an xbox for the kids plus a bug ridden beige box in the house stops making sense.
"But not in the office". True, there is nothing (yet) to replace the PC in the office, but what runs on them is a different matter. With governments and army's switching thousands of PC to Linux, a lot of, if not most companies will be taking an interest. The biggest reason for them not to switch (in my opinion) is the empty threats of 'legal proceedings' against Linux. That was always a 'we have more lawyers than you do' threat. Now countries are involved, and the 'we have more lawyers than you do' style of business does not work against France or Germany or China.
Linux looks more than just interesting to a company with 200, 6 year old PCs to upgrade, and that is before anyone has mentioned leaving them where they are, running them in a cluster and having more power than individual replacements can offer for at least 6 years.
Microsoft needs a new DOS or a new windows, something that fills a gap that we didn't really know existed. But now it is to late, if Linux isn't already there then a year after the release of a new 'wonder product', Linux will be there and it will be doing it better.
That's my 2 cents. Sorry it was so long, more like $1.50 really