Practical Technology

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Windows is on its Last Legs!?


Last week, while I was at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit at the University of Texas Super Computing Center in Austin Texas, I was surprised to find that if I had wanted to cover the week’s most surprising Linux-related news, I should at been at the Gartner Conference in Las Vegas where two Gartner analysts declared, “Windows Is Collapsing.”

It is? Even I wouldn’t go that far and I have little love for Windows.

Never-the-less, that’s what Gartner’s analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald said. Greg Keizer at ComputerWorld quotes them as saying, “”For Microsoft, its ecosystem and its customers, the situation is untenable.”

What’s so different now? Well, according to them, the heart of the matter is Windows is too fat and bloated for Microsoft to change it into the kind of operating system users really want. Well, I can’t disagree with that. I’ve been saying for a while now that Microsoft has already given up on Vista. Heck, I was even nice enough to suggest a way they could actually get a functional Windows 7 out by the end of 2009.

Still, Windows has been a candidate for Weight-Watchers for some time now. I do think that Vista being such a flop is going to give both Macs and Linux-based PCs a real shot at going prime-time. But, what I meant by that is that by 2011, we’d see Macs up to 20% of the market and Linux desktops cracking 10%.

Sound insane to you? I invite you to check Amazon’s Bestsellers: The most popular items in Computers and PC Hardware list. As I write this, on the evening of April 13th, eight of the top 25 sellers are Linux-powered Asus Eee UMPCs (Ultra Mobile PCs) and there’s also the Linux-fueled Nokia N800 tablet for a total of nine Linux systems. There are also seven Mac models on the list, topped by the Apple MacBook MB403LL/A 13.3-inch; Laptop. Finally, beneath almost all the Linux PCs and all of the Macs, you’ll find four, count em four, Vista-powered laptops.

Something’s happening here and it is very clear. Windows is losing its grip on the desktop. It won’t happen overnight. There is, after all, an enormous installed base of Windows PCs out there.

Next year, though, if things continue in the way they have been, I’ll be ready to say Windows is collapsing. I think Microsoft has one more shot to get it right with Windows 7. If by April 2009, Windows 7 isn’t in beta, though, I’ll be ready to start writing Windows’ obituary.


  1. “There is, after all, an enormous installed base of Windows PCs out there.”

    The Vista installed base is not that enormous. It is small and growing at roughly one-third the rate of consumer PC production. GNU/Linux and Mac OS can catch that because they are growing much faster. What will happen when XP is killed off? Will business start installing Vista by default? Some. Others may cling to XP for a few years, holding back Vista growth, and really opening eyes to GNU/Linux because GNU/Linux is more business-like than Mac OS which has hardware lock-in.

    If M$ promotes a server OS to the desktop in 2009/10 they would have to strip all the bloat. What would that tell the 100+ million suckers who bought Vista? Will they want a refund or will they want to throw more money at M$? I think the consumer will be educated in the process and not accept M$ as the default computing platform because M$ does not deliver on the promises. Retail channels will also be disappointed. They lost out on Christmas sales in 2007. If people expect a new product in 2009, they may hold back in Christmas 2008. M$ is taking hits from all sides and will never recover, even if the next release is peachy. They will be seen by all as gougers and unreliable partners. Expect more retailers to give more shelf space to GNU/Linux.

    The future is bright for GNU/Linux. It has none of the baggage M$ carries by its own choices. GNU/Linux will run well on almost anything and drivers are becoming less of a problem as are applications. Once M$’s share slides, the apps will flow to GNU/Linux to avoid sliding with M$.

  2. Maybe it’s because Amazon is one of the few places that you can get mass-produced Linux based PCs? How many PCs does Amazon sell compared to say, Dell, HP, Lenovo, TigerDirect and other Microsoft shills? Even Dell, that made a big deal about offering Linux PCs, made sure to hide its offering behind multiple layers of obfuscated web layers to make sure there wasn’t too many sales to upset Microsoft. Does it even offer them anymore?

    So what Amazon offers is hardly of any consequence in the market. Microsoft still has a lock on the manufacturers, and we’re still stuck paying the Microsoft tax if we want non-bespoke hardware offered by most (all?) of the major manufacturers. We still have no choice here in North America unless we want to build our own machines from scratch, or purchase from one of very few manufacturers that offer alternatives.

    At least in France they ruled such tactics illegal. But France is one of the few countries that has real consumer protection laws. Unlike North America, where consumers are considered just walking wallets that corporations are allowed to “target” and harvest anytime the feel like it, with very little protection for the consumer from the predatory practices of companies like Microsoft.

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