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How Vista’s total failure hurt Linux


Once I got a good look at Vista, I knew desktop Linux was in for good times. Vista was, and still is, a disaster of an operating system. I was right too. When netbooks started coming out, it was Linux, not Vista, that ruled.

What I hadn’t expected though was that Vista would be such an absolute sales flop that Microsoft would actually reverse course and bring back first XP Home and then, in December 2008, XP Pro.

Of course, Microsoft hasn’t come right out and said, “Vista sucks, we get it, here have XP instead,” but for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what they’re doing. That’s one reason why they’re pushing Windows 7, aka Vista Lite, out the door as fast as possible.

Windows 7, unlike Vista, will run on netbooks. Once, Windows 7 is out, Microsoft will go back to the business of killing off XP.

In the meantime, though, Linux has gone from owning the netbook niche to no longer even holding a majority stake in it. What happened?

According to Gary Marshall on Tech Radar it’s because users are being presented with a choice between “Windows XP versus a whole bunch of different distributions.”

I don’t buy that. Only a Linux fan knows the differences, or even the names, of the various Linux distributions on the netbooks. What a customer or a sales rep. knows about a netbook is what it looks like, its amount of RAM and storage space, and its price. That’s about it.

So why is XP making such a strong comeback? Well, I think Microsoft is offering some very sweet deals to the OEMs to make sure that XP gets a lot of play. The OEMs, who feel like Microsoft owes them after sticking with the Vista stink-bomb, are happy to get low-cost XP.

Even so, Linux-powered netbooks are still cheaper than ones with XP, but the vendors, with the exception of Dell with its Ubuntu hardware, aren’t doing much to promote them. Yes, everyone who’s anyone in PCs now offers desktop Linux, but they’re not advertising it.

I suspect all of them are happy to have desktop Linux now. I also suspect, however, that it’s mostly so they can tell Microsoft to make them a good deal for XP and Windows 7 licenses because if Microsoft doesn’t come across, they can always switch to Linux instead.

So what can Linux do? Well, for one thing, we need to get the word out that desktop Linux is available and every bit as good, when it’s not better, than Windows.

The Linux Foundation is doing what it can to promote this by pushing forwards with its “We’re Linux” video contest. Desktop Linux has gone about as far as it can without the support of the broader, non-technical market. With the ads springing from the Linux Foundations’ work, easy-to-use Linux distributions, and pre-installed Linux laptops and desktops, it’s up to Linux’s fans and vendors to get Linux moving forward on the desktop again.

A version of “How Vista’s total failure hurt Linux” first appeared in ComputerWorld.

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