Go Green. Dump Windows for Linux

A government study found that Linux hardware stays around longer than Windows hardware.

CNN reports that "switching from a Windows-operated computer to a Linux-operated one could slash computer-generated e-waste levels by 50%." It's no longer about software freedom. It's also about environmental responsibility.

A UK government study in late 2004 reported that there were substantial green benefits to running a Linux open source operating system (OS) on computers instead of the ubiquitous Windows OS, owned by Microsoft. The main problem with Windows users was that they had to change their computer twice as many times as Linux users, on average, thereby effectively creating twice as much computer-generated e-waste.

Those of us who actually like the idea of getting a new machine on a regular basis (mea culpa) should not cheer too loudly, however. Actually, I've found that I pass my Macs down to other family members such that they stay in use for generations...or five or six years, whichever comes first. :-)

Back to Linux....Do you think that this elongation of effective use of Linux machines has more to do with the lack of a strong Linux desktop commercial agenda? Consider:

  1. At least part of the reason for the need to refresh Windows machines stems from a desire to upgrade to the latest and greatest (XP instead of 2000; Vista instead of XP ( or not )). Linux adoption doesn't follow the same frenzy to stay current. It's a bit more pragmatic, I suspect.

  2. While Linux innovations chew up more resources, they seem to do so at a much slower pace than Windows, which seems to demand significantly more resources with each major release, necessitating a new machine. Partly this may stem from a too-cozy relationship between Microsoft and the PC manufacturers, which relationship has not existed between the Linux crowd and Dell/HP/etc.

Regardless, there are plenty of good reasons to buy Windows (applications, some use-cases will be easier to implement on Windows than Linux, etc.). But for large organizations filled with a wide range of employees, many of which need to fill basic computing tasks, a Linux machine, refreshed far less often than a Windows machine, is probably the right answer. The report found:

Industry observers quote a typical hardware refresh period for Microsoft Windows systems as 3-4 years; a major UK manufacturing organisation quotes its hardware refresh period for Linux systems as 6-8 years.

That's money and waste worth saving.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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