Dvorak: Windows Vista's 'Mac'-Ness Might Open Door for Linux Takeover

Published January 24, 2007

| PCMag

A number of unique consolidations are happening in the industry just as Microsoft is trying to get a buzz going about Vista.

The timing couldn't be better, but there are bound to be numerous shake-outs and a few collapses. And Microsoft looks vulnerable, too.

The most important event is the formation of the Linux Foundation. This is an attempt by the major players, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Intel, to create a standard Linux and discourage the continued trend toward various distros that are subtly incompatible with each other and certain applications.

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This may also end the faddish nature of new releases from various vendors. One minute the "best" Linux is Mandrake. Then it's SUSE. Then it's Ubuntu.

End users have never adopted Linux for the desktop largely because of this trend. It's possible that Linux could make a move to appear on the desktop if this newest initiative is successful.

After all, nobody likes the worsening heavy-handedness of Microsoft. In a never-ending paranoid fit over piracy, Microsoft has its operating systems "calling home" too much. And in an attempt to take over the world with its codec, the company has far too much digital-rights management built into everything.

The most curious aspects of Vista, which may also spell its doom and mark the end of the road for the most popular OS in the history of the world, are its new Mac-like qualities. This phenomenon I find quite fascinating.

Right-Brain Versus Left-Brain OS

From what I can tell, the Mac community likes Vista more than the PC community. Apparently, in its quest to emulate what Apple does on the Mac — as if it's the holy grail of computers — Microsoft has given up on what makes a PC unique. (And I don't mean the blue screen of death.)

There is something about Vista that has crossed over to the right brain — the realm of the Mac.

When it comes to the Apple-versus-PC battle, one oft-neglected discussion is that the majority of people do not like Macs. Get over it, it's true.

Hence, Apple's market share is low. There is no other explanation, although price has always been the rationale. Now it looks as if there is more to it than price.

I, personally, do not like the Mac — snappy response aside — of the way it feels when saving files. I know this is silly, but I've never felt comfortable with it. It was mushy in some weird way that always gave me the creeps.

I always felt that if something weird happened on a Mac I would never be able to recover a file. I've never felt that way with a PC. I figured that with a PC, I could take the hard disk out and easily put it into another machine and then go exploring the drive without worry.

This is a minor thing to people who would be fearful of removing a hard disk, and that, to me, would be a typical art director at an ad agency who used a Mac. He or she's buying the machine because it looks good and he or she likes the way it feels.

And there is the much-discussed odd nature of the fringe Mac users who are cultlike and often psycho in their behavior: They see the machine as an extension of themselves and defend it from criticism with an unpleasant vehemence. They represent the worst kind of irrational right-brainers. Who needs to associate with people like that?

Linux Opportunity

It's possible that Microsoft ventured too far into the right-brain side of computing with its release of Vista. And now may be the perfect opportunity for Linux to seal the doom of Windows.

Linux is an all-out left-brain OS. And it is no coincidence that the three big companies — HP, IBM, and Intel — are getting together now because they are aware of the subtle weaknesses of Vista and they see an opportunity to strike a blow at Microsoft.

After all, none of these companies has ever been happy with Microsoft and the way they've been treated by the software giant over the years.

Of course, a unified Linux battle front does not a victory make. There are still issues with the applications.

I've said this before: Until a great clone of Microsoft Office appears, complete with a PowerPoint program that isn't clunky, Linux will never take over the desktop. StarOffice does not cut it.

And Adobe would have to port all of its software to Linux. Because certain executives at Adobe hate open-source software (namely open-source PostScript), Adobe has refused to move Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator to Linux.

Earlier last year, Novell polled the public about the ten most wanted applications for Linux, and the list was as follows:

1. Photoshop

2. AutoCAD

3. Dreamweaver

4. iTunes

5. Macromedia Studio

6. Flash

7. Quicken

8. Visio

9. QuickBooks

10. Lotus Notes

Four of the top ten are Adobe products.

That said, I assume that ports have already been completed on most of those programs on the list "just in case."

If so, the tide toward a Linux desktop OS could happen so fast — overnight, in fact — that everyone would be shocked.

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Copyright © 2006 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited.

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