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The time of the penguin

At 10, Linux finds growing up is hard to do.


The time of the penguin

Readers' turn: Is Linux a threat to Microsoft?

By CNET Staff
August 24, 2001, 4:00 a.m. PT

We recently asked our readers whether Linux poses a threat to Microsoft. Many responded that Linux is a viable contender in the market for server software, but has little hope of gaining a foothold on the desktop. Others were hopeful that Linux could disrupt the Microsoft juggernaut, although maybe not in the short term.

Here is a sampling of the responses, which have been edited for content and clarity:

Yes, Linux will prevail over Windows as the preferred OS--once people are able to grasp the concept of being able to configure your own operating system.

Computer companies should offer Linux completely pre-loaded and bug tested and hacker approved for mass consumption.

The open-source community needs to band together and refine the OS to make it user-friendly.

Mark Byland
Waitsfield, Vt.
Linux user

If Linux were not a threat to Microsoft, then why would Microsoft steal top software designers from a "major" competitor that makes development tools that can be used to port Microsoft applications to Linux and other competing operating systems?

When I asked a software developer why his Windows application had not been ported to Linux yet, his answer was that he was waiting for Borland to come out with a Linux version of the development tools he was using.

Ray Kane
Middlesex, N.J.
Computer services provider

People tend to not favor change. If they actually took the time to experience Linux, they would probably consider the change. It's cheaper, performs better, has less downtime, and is more interesting.

Britton Scritchfield
North Little Rock, Ark.
Unix/NT/GIS systems administrator, First Electric Cooperative

It will heat up when Linux becomes more user-friendly. It has the potential to disrupt Microsoft's plans, but not for a while. I like it mainly for developing. It uses less resources and even works better on my old Compaq 233MHz PC than Windows 95.

Kevin J. Sewell
Remedy administrator

Hopefully, Linux, as well as other OSes, will grow to become real alternatives to Windows, just to have more options, competition, and therefore benefits to the consumer.

Rodney Kock
Oranjestad, Aruba
Web designer

Microsoft is basically a Windows and Office company. Linux is no match for Windows on the desktop and won't be a for a long time.

Linux will keep Microsoft from owning the data center. Although Microsoft is somewhat manageable by a GUI, it has a long way to go before the configurability and manageability of Windows matches the Unix heritage of Linux.

Richard Cardona
Austin, Texas
IBM advisory engineer

I would like an OS that is easy to use. Windows is difficult to configure for the average user, but Linux is damn near impossible.

David Hollis
Sydney, Australia

A resounding yes. Linux will grow faster in the server/enterprise market. A great example is that Google uses 8,000 Red Hat servers. What kind of message does that send to Microsoft? I predict that Linux will not grow as fast in the home-use market.

Clay Price
Winston-Salem, Ore.
Unix system administrator

Linux will certainly become a larger part of my operations in the near future. So the answer is, Microsoft poses a threat to itself. Linux is a refreshing alternative and frees people from Microsoft's dysfunctional corporate society.

Rodney Wise
Boca Raton, Fla.
VAR POS systems

Linux is most certainly a threat to Microsoft. It has faster development times, greater stability and reliability, and is significantly cheaper. Critical mass has been reached in the server market, and it will be reached on the desktop all too soon. Microsoft may have more features, but Linux has the features people need and want.

Rodd Clarkson
Melbourne, Australia

Yes, it does. Microsoft has been given time to defend itself against Linux. And Linux has earned greater industry trust and has met industry quality standards. Microsoft has even had to "improve" its products because of the quality concerns raised to it by Linux's superior performance.

Joe Waliga
System administrator

The benefits Linux allows me are freedom and choice. Freedom because all my software carries a free license as defined by the Free Software Foundation. Choice because I determine what appears on my monitor, not some corporation's marketing department. I use a unique graphical user interface for each of my three computers, because each has a unique purpose and duty to perform for me.

David Emile Lamy
Belfast, Maine

Comparing Linux to Windows is like comparing apples to oranges. Linux will not touch Microsoft's desktop dominance. At the same time, Windows is not as serious a contender in the server space as Linux. The world right now is split between Windows on the desktop and Unix on the back end. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Sharif Abdallah
Internet architect

By word of mouth and by the fact that you get the operating system plus the software in one package for less than a 10th the price of Windows and required software, things will gradually change.

Alfie Lee
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Web designer/registered nurse

Microsoft is its own worst enemy. Linux, although quite stable and usable, is not ready to unseat Windows from the desktop. But if Microsoft continues to dissuade its own customers with foolish tactics like suing school districts, threatening charities that donate computers to needy families, and insisting that the terms of its license give it proprietary rights to any consumer information submitted by its customers, Linux is poised to replace Windows.

Jim Wedge
Tempe, Ariz.

Linux by itself is not a threat to Microsoft. It's kind of like those Chinese finger puzzles--the more they resist, the tighter the hold. It's the users and developers that will leverage Linux and ultimately be the reckoning for Microsoft. This is like the subculture movement that Microsoft was once to IBM.

Chris Schibi
Kansas City, Kan.
Director of systems engineering

Linux is a great operating system for what it is designed for: server environments. However, until someone invests significant funds to make Linux as user-friendly as Windows, and more applications with the same features as their Windows competitors become available, then Microsoft will keep holding on to the desktop market.

Chris Bailey
Carthage, Mo.
Network administrator

Once they get the desktop usability issues figured out, Microsoft's constant blundering and the customization of Linux will gradually push Windows aside--especially when mainstream applications become the norm for Linux.

Billy Stephens
Fremont, Calif.
Field service technician

If a famous company with no ties to Microsoft, like Sun or Oracle, were to market PCs with Linux and StarOffice pre-configured and available at retail for $349, Microsoft would have real problems. That would sidestep Linux's setup issues and beat Windows+Works in terms of features, performance and price.

David L. Farquhar
St. Louis, Mo.
Systems analyst and freelance author

Linux runs on most of my systems now. I do not want to be forced to pay annual subscriptions to Microsoft for my operating system and applications.

Linux gives me choice and freedom. When the U.S. courts break up Microsoft, maybe then we can have Microsoft Explorer and Office for Linux--and many other things besides.

Steve Withers
Wellington, New Zealand
Asia-Pacific client solution manager, AT&T Business Solutions

Here is the score at a fairly large company with over a thousand computers, both PCs and Unix-based machines. Linux is doing the job that about 30 Microsoft servers would have been doing if there were no Linux. Perhaps surprising is that there are about 40 Linux computers taking the place of Sun workstations. So while Linux is a growing threat to Microsoft, it is an even bigger threat to Sun in my little corner of the world.

Mark Holbrook
Pocatello, Idaho
TIS manager, AMI Semiconductor

IBM labs have hundreds of PCs running Linux only. Many of these Linux machines also have a Windows 2000 license. Next year, we'll try to order our Linux PCs without Windows to reduce costs. That represents money Microsoft will not have. And it's a growing trend.

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
IBM software engineer

Open source is a real threat to Microsoft, not Linux specifically. More and more programmers and development companies are supporting open source, and Microsoft is showing signs of deep concern and worry. It's a threat to Microsoft's monopoly, and we all know what that means.

Bill Fant
Miami Beach, Fla.
President/creative director, New Media Studio

Until my grandmother can use Linux in a user-friendly way like Windows, Microsoft doesn't have to worry about the underground-rebel-without-a-cause Linux OS.

Frank Diaz
Naples, Fla.
Network administrator

Linux is a threat to Microsoft particularly in the server and networking markets. As Linux becomes progressively more stable and efficient, more companies will realize the enormous cost savings with the system. Linux is not yet a significant threat in the market for consumer PCs, though, and may never be. The software just isn't there.

James Russell
Ontario, Calif.
Freelance author

On the desktop, Linux is clearly not a threat to Windows. In the server environment, especially Web servers, file servers and print servers, Linux is a serious contender. It is also a threat to HP-UX, AIX and Solaris.

Steven Cohn
Torrance, Calif.
Software engineer

It completely depends on the market segment. High-end corporate: No, but Microsoft isn't even a serious player here. Midrange corporate: No. Microsoft is too entrenched. Low-end corporate: Yes. Linux is making serious inroads here. High-end consumer (techno-geek): Of course! Low-end consumer (average Joe): No. Not until grandma can use it.

Chris Stoffel
Web developer

Linux does pose a threat to Microsoft in the area of networking and servers because of cheap, reliable network services. But Microsoft will retain its edge on the desktop for the near future because of Microsoft Office and the improvements to the Windows line.

Michael Streeter
Elkhart, Ind.

Linux has the potential of being a threat to Microsoft. The only bottleneck here is schools and retailers in all their forms.

Robert Hansson
Uppsala, Sweden
Computer technician

Linux is a better platform for servers but has work left in the desktop arena. Linux's stability is a real positive for both markets but will be really evident for users (something not seen with Windows). In the real world, Linux powers more users per box than Windows.

Jeremy M. Guthrie
Fitchburg, Wis.
Network engineer

Linux is great but still not earth shaking. It still takes a techie to get it up and running properly. And you can't find many pre-installed Linux machines either.

If Microsoft wants to take over the server OS market, then Linux is a problem. But consumers and software makers aren't yet ready to give up on Windows-based PCs.

Jake Munson
Kuna, Idaho
Network technician

I never put up Microsoft servers anymore. And all my home computers (six of them) are Linux computers. I write e-mail, surf the Web, type documents, make business cards, listen to MP3s, chat, and keep track of my bank accounts from Linux. I do all of my programming from Linux.

Carl Parrish
Mesa, Ariz.
Web programmer

The big point that most people miss with the Linux/Microsoft fight is not whether Linux will replace Microsoft. The big point is the choice Linux offers end users. Competition between the OSes breeds innovation and will eventually force Microsoft to write stable software that is more user-oriented. 

David McLean
Liverpool, England

From the beginning, the Linux revolution has been about a community of programmers working toward a common goal. Here are some of the personalities that flamed interest in Linux and some who have carried the torch forward.

Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman created the concept of "free software"—defined as software that may be freely distributed as long as its source code remains open—and began an effort at cloning Unix that was the foundation of much of Linux. His Free Software Foundation created what is now known as the GCC compiler, a critical piece of software that converts programs written by humans into instructions a chip can understand.

Alan Cox

Second only to Torvalds in the development of the operating system, British programmer Alan Cox oversees much of the Linux kernel. He works as a programmer at Red Hat, with a focus on testing new updates and making sure Linux is usable by real-world customers.

Bob Young

As co-founder, chairman and former chief executive of Linux software leader Red Hat, Robert Young helped establish Linux as a commercial force. The University of Toronto graduate ran a computer-leasing company and worked in other financial positions in the tech industry before championing Linux.

Eric Raymond

One of the leading thinkers of the open-source software movement, Eric S. Raymond wrote the influential treatise "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." He was also one of the main creators of the popular Fetchmail e-mail program.

Miguel de Icaza

As founder of the Gnome project to create a polished user interface for Linux that wasn't bound by proprietary software constraints, programmer Miguel de Icaza has played a leading role in the effort to make the operating system more friendly to nontechnical users. He is also chief technical officer of Ximian, a start-up working on e-commerce applications for Gnome.

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