The real challenge to Microsoft in the 21st Century?
May 30, 2002 1:32 PM   Subscribe

The real challenge to Microsoft in the 21st Century? Wonder what the techies out there think of this - is it yet another pc false dawn, or - if and when Red Hat get on board - the beginning of the end for Windows? Checkout the heavyweight 'partners'... What with the developments in the pipeline for PlayStation Linux - and maybe even the XBox! - , and Linux making tentative inroads in China, how's Bill gonna embrace and extend this one? Please elucidate for the ignorant! Link courtesy of BBC Sci/Tech
posted by dash_slot- (25 comments total)
"Caldera CEO Ransom Love..." gotta love that name. Sounds like he should be a pirate or something...
posted by ph00dz at 1:43 PM on May 30, 2002

IF Linux:

Becomes as easy to use for the clueless masses (including myself) as Windows


Is easy to install


Supposed Linux "advocates" stop treating Linux newbies like they were brain dead morons


Has as much available commercial software as Windows


Gates and co. roll over and play dead

THEN Maybe

Since the last two criteria are unlikely to happen, I don't see Linux achieving World Domination (TM) any time soon. The third criterion is why I gave up on trying to learn Linux.
posted by mark13 at 1:54 PM on May 30, 2002

What mark13 said.
posted by fahfooh at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2002

Or maybe they'll do like they did with MacOS and start releasing products for the OS. If you can't beat 'em...
posted by benbrown at 2:11 PM on May 30, 2002

mark13, your comments are... so 1999. Check out the modern distros.. While OSX is a better unix-for-the-masses platform right now, I think that you would be very surprised by the Ximian Gnome desktop running evolution 1.0 (very very nice mail client), Mozilla 1.0 (as of today, right?) and Abiword/Gnumeric (word,excel clones.)

I realize that is is hard to completely install linux and fail before posting to a thread like this but I personally don't think these criticisms are nearly as on-target as they were a year ago.

And please don't stereotype linux users/gurus as jerks. I don't judge you based on your platform choices. I can tell you that as a mac person in publishing I get a lot of ill informed idiot-talk from a few Windows "advocates" -- things are not just true for someone having said them.

I personally know only very nice people who use linux. Except for this guy Ruben -- but forget people who are offputting... they were not going to give you useful advice anyway.... just move on. I lurk in #blackbox a lot and the really smart people don't say anything when they don't have time for you.... most of the people who are mean are not the best resources and there are tons of people who will help you. But the point is that, like OSX, the modern distros are getting to the point that you only need to go under the hood when you are doing something more advanced.

Anyway. Having the same amount of commercial software as Windows misses the point a little, also. The GNU way would be to have better software available for free. And isn't better+free nice?
posted by n9 at 2:48 PM on May 30, 2002

Having in the past month installed linux and WindowsXP on the same hardware, I'll offer up that it's my opinion at this point that Linux (the red hat distro to be specific) actually has the superior install process at this point. It's easy to understand even for a layperson, yet it has much better information on the various components of the operating system and much better control over which components get installed. And to my amusement, at first WinXP would flat out fail to install on my hardware wereas there were no such problems with Linux.

I still think the windows desktop is superior though, and the 'go compile this for yourself' or 'dance through dependent package/library hell' model of software installation on red hat has a long way to go before it's practical to suggest linux as a desktop os for the layperson.
posted by Tempus67 at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2002

"Supposed Linux "advocates" stop treating Linux newbies like they were brain dead morons."

I've never seen that. Allowing for the errant cranks you'll find in any community, I've never seen what you describe and I'm confident you can't back it up with (let's say) typical UseNet postings. On the other hand, I have routinely seen Linux people in IRC blow entire evenings walking someone through an installation when the sane thing might have been to tell them to read up a bit more first. Now, I *have* seen totally unprepared neophytes lash out at innocent Linux users in IRC when their lack of information made a sensible explanation impossible (ie: "Which IRQ are you using?" "Uh, I dunno." "What kind of sound card do you have?" "Uh, I dunno" "Have you partitioned space on the drive?" "Uh, I dunno." "Sorry, we can't help you." "F*ckin' loosers!!!") :)

Of course, don't ask me to defend the perl crowd. They are genuinely snotty; it's a kewl cultural thing. Also has the virtue of hiding your ignorance. You can smugly answer ANY question with RTFM HTH.

Back to the topic at hand (sorta): This may be one of those things that has been incredibly obvious to everyone else but me for months. If so, someone gently toss me a clue. Is this whole Micro$oft .net push (mostly) an attempt to institute "thin-client" technology that was all the rage for about a week two years back? I know that they would dearly love to make your home computer a dumb-terminal and force people to run subscription stuff off their servers (thus, nailing down a monopoly yet again). I also know that traditional RCPs were an obstacle to this scheme -- and that their sudden chubby for all things XML sort of neuters that problem quite nicely.
posted by RavinDave at 3:14 PM on May 30, 2002

Most OSs are easy to install these days, I've had no problems with WinXP home/pro, SUSE or Redhat linux installations over the last few months. Windows XP is far easier for the average user, as its specifically designed to be nice and user friendly (lets not mention the horrid luna theme). You can run commercial games and stuff like Jedi Knight II using the Wine linux emulator, but most people just can't be bothered, especially when Windows comes packaged with virtually all pcs (anyone remember what happened when Dell tried to package linux with theirs? Microsoft got pissed).

Linux has some quality packages like GIMP, which are as good as others you'd pay £s/$s for (and normally these come packaged for free - with SUSE you get a DVD full, literally thousands of full programs). Too much choice for the normal user - any easy to go through guides out there letting the average joe know whether konqueror konquers Galeon/Mozilla?

Lets hope unitedlinux comes up with a good balance (ie doesn't hide those goddamn system files/stick msn messenger and pinball in with no easy way to get them out :)

I'd quite like that PS2 linux kit, it'd make fiddling with my ps2 much easier than using homebrew libs as I am at the mo.. And they've got MAME on it - SNES/n64 and the rest soon, mm..
posted by Mossy at 3:20 PM on May 30, 2002

Supposed Linux "advocates" stop treating Linux newbies like they were brain dead morons"

I have to say I haven't seen this either. mark13, where did you go looking for advice? Have you tried your local Linux Users Group?
I think you must have been quite unlucky in the people you came across, and it is sad that it has put you off learning more.
In my experience, Linux old hands are quite gentle on 'newbies', and usually reserve the BRAIN DEAD MORON!!1 treatment for each other : )
posted by Catch at 3:43 PM on May 30, 2002

I've been using SuSE 8 for a month now on my white box with dubious hardware. I remember 4 clicks in the install process and changing the CD every so often. SuSE has a quality product for the 'newbie' like me.

The big news about UnitedLinux is that it will follow the LSB (Linux Standards Base) this sets down a standard structure for Linux distributions so everybody can build their programs and know where to install them. One of SuSE's problems has been that although they use the same RPM format as Red Hat Red Hat installs programs in a different place so they don't work properly without a different SuSE RPM. This should help to alleviate that. And hopefully encourage more people to port their applications to Linux, or even just write them on it.

There is quality Linux software out there like StarOffice 6 (5.2 is very old now), Evolution/Kmail, the GiMP and SAP. Linux doesn't do everything for you, there are some areas where programs are woefully lacking. It's important for us to be able to have choices in our computing, if an MS program does the job better, cheaper and without proprietary lock in (well maybe not the latter) then please use it. It's only tools for the job. Hopefully this announcement should give us better tools, for a little bit cheaper (competition drives prices down yes?). We can't really be against making things better can we?
posted by nedrichards at 3:48 PM on May 30, 2002

Oh yeah and this announcement is all about servers at the moment. Linux on the desktop is real and possible, it's not just for emacs/vim junkies but currently servers are where the real money is for these people
posted by nedrichards at 3:51 PM on May 30, 2002

I installed Debian just last week. It's since then become my primary machine. It wasn't an easy setup like SuSe, but Debian isn't meant to be. Of course I didn't ask for help from anyone, I just did a search for my problem area in Google Groups. A lot of the questions I had were already asked and politely answered.
posted by Apoch at 4:06 PM on May 30, 2002

After years of only having Linux on my desktops, I recently had to install Windows on one of my machines so my wife could use some software requred for a class. I found the Windows install process to be completely infuriating and overly complicated and I never want to do it again.

And while I have the floor... not to put too fine a point on it., but Linux/UN*X has never been harder to use than Windows; in fact, for most tasks it's far easier to use. What it has always been is much, much harder to *learn* to use. The real trick that the Linux community needs to pull off now is to make Linux as *friendly* and *accessible* as Windows without sacrtificing its ease of use.
posted by hob at 4:38 PM on May 30, 2002

Oh yeah and this announcement is all about servers at the moment. Linux on the desktop is real and possible, it's not just for emacs/vim junkies but currently servers are where the real money is for these people.

Glad you said this. The announcement was about servers. In that respect, most of the people I know working in the big companies (where the huge contracts are) don't (I'm afraid to say) take Linux very seriously yet. They are all playing with it in their internal IT shops - but really in a somewhat minor way. Additionally, it is not Bill Gates, but Scott McNealy & Co., IBM & etc. that - if anyone - probably need to feel threatened. Most of the people I know that are looking at it are seeing it (in the backoffice) as an alternative to Solaris, AIX, and other unix-flavored OS's.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:07 PM on May 30, 2002

Is this whole Micro$oft .net push (mostly) an attempt to institute "thin-client" technology that was all the rage for about a week two years back?

Nope. dotNet is in fact a very fat client. Think of it as being very similar to the Java Virtual Machine with far better development tools and language independence. It is also going to be platform independent once other OS vendors get around to implementing their own versions of the Common Language Runtimes.

So far I have only been impressed with dotNet as a tool and look forward to seeing how people use webservices.
posted by srboisvert at 5:24 PM on May 30, 2002

Of course, webservices <> .net.

You can do webservices in almost any language...
posted by ph00dz at 5:53 PM on May 30, 2002

Indeed isn't .Net all about MS trying to keep the PC 'the centre of your digital world' as Intel would say and attempt to stop its functions being canibalised by thin clients? Of course this has nothing at all to do with the fact that their products don't have as high a visibility in the embedded/thin client space as they do in the other areas. The Linux Terminal Server Project is doing some cool stuff related to this tin client malarkey.

If they can keep the CLR mainly OS independent (not too many Windows only APIs) then it'll be a real step forwards, otherwise all they're doing is moving from the win32 API's to a new set. A more powerful set for sure but with the same inherent single platform limitations. Things should be interesting.

oh and MidasMulligan: IBM extending their partnership with SuSE into this was one of the most interesting things. I think I also detected some rumblings from HP as well. Linux will probably make it to the corporate desktop at some point but as you say the backoffice is quaking under its iron boot currently. Remember, when saved millions by switching to Linux they switched from HP-UX.
posted by nedrichards at 5:58 PM on May 30, 2002

So far I have only been impressed with dotNet as a tool and look forward to seeing how people use webservices.

Yes ... the webservices model itself is quite interesting. MS's .NET is just one take on it ... in fact all the biggies are trying to hit the market with a branded webservices offering (though in many cases they aren't doing anything new, but merely putting a new marketing wrapper around a bundle of current products - like Sun's "ONE").

The intruiging thing is that the webservices model itself is based on entirely open protocols and languages(essentially, XML, SOAP, UDDI, & etc.). While the big companies are competing for who can make it easiest to use the webservices model (as you say ... .NET as a tool), and attempting to gain lock-in by controlling the development environment, the thing they are all downplaying (and the thing that is the biggest value-added to clients) is the knowledge that there will no longer be lock-in in the production environment. If applications comply with the webservices model, one division of a large company that built a serious app using J2EE on a DB2 database could easily be made to integrate with, and share data with another division that wrote in C# on the .NET version of SQL Server - and both could be combined to deliver to internet browsers, PDA's, and wireless presentation engines.

And ... as you say, I too am interested in how people will use webservices - because the real value will start accruing when a critical mass is reached ... and companies can begin sharing - not just between divisions, but between themselves and other companies - with efficiency and security. I suspect, however, that while this direction is emerging as quite likely - it is still 2 or 3 years down the road.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:08 PM on May 30, 2002

Wow, people are already contracting "Web services" to one word? That's the fastest I've ever seen that happen.
posted by kindall at 6:40 PM on May 30, 2002

You say Web services...
And I say webservices!
posted by crunchburger at 7:08 PM on May 30, 2002

posted by MidasMulligan at 7:27 PM on May 30, 2002

web services

posted by greyscale at 10:46 PM on May 30, 2002

posted by MidasMulligan at 11:51 PM on May 30, 2002

Additionally, it is not Bill Gates, but Scott McNealy & Co., IBM & etc. that - if anyone - probably need to feel threatened. Most of the people I know that are looking at it are seeing it (in the backoffice) as an alternative to Solaris, AIX, and other unix-flavored OS's.

I'm glad someone brought that up, I'm very curious to see if Linux is going to bite these people in the ass when every CIO decides that Solaris or AIX must go. Sure, IBM will probably be the vendor of choice and save some face as well and truckloads of money and jobs, but other Unix vendors are taking a serious risk.

I expect to see Linux everywhere that I'm not looking like embedded devices, PDAs, PVRs, game consoles, servers, etc and fully expect the Microsoft machine to keep producing home and business friendly OSs that will continue to sell like hotcakes regardless of how nifty Koffice or StarOffice seem to a lot of people.

I'm also very curious to see if Apple will ever produce a 'business Mac' edition kind of like how it produces an educationl Mac edition. They have the apps to make it work and the office geeks will love the BSD underpinnings while the office technophiles will dig the cool colors. With MS fighting its way out of its anti-trust suit, now would be a good time to start launching these things without fear of a massive retaliation like, "No more office/IE for you!"

Apple could use Dell-quality parts in these machines to make pricing competitive and sweeten the deal with some custom written GUIs on par with MS's for OSS mail servers, web servers, and databases. A 'forget server licensing fees' campaign, well minus the cost of the OS itself, could give Apple some serious desktop marketshare and possibly server marketshare. If anyone is going to be David to MS's desktop Goliath it'll probably be Apple and it probably will never be Linux.

Then again who knows, as Linux creeps into the backend it might infect the entire network. Who needs, "Where do you want to go today" when you can have "We can save how much where?"
posted by skallas at 12:55 AM on May 31, 2002

Thank you everyone for such an informative and friendly discussion :)

Am I brave enough to go there yet...? Er, no. But maybe soon, grasshopper, when the BSD greets the API by the CLR, we'll all have the webservices we desire... (",)

- Dash
posted by dash_slot- at 2:05 AM on May 31, 2002

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