Originally Published: Friday, 14 January 2000 Author: Rob Bos
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Microsoft: Who Cares?

The recent announcement of Gates' resignation as the CEO of Microsoft, and the subsequent flood of articles from several different sources promptly published on Linux Today and several other Linux-related sites, tends to bring to mind a single, plain question: who really cares?...

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The recent announcement of Gates' resignation as the CEO of Microsoft, and the subsequent flood of articles from several different sources promptly published on Linux Today and several other Linux-related sites, tends to bring to mind a single, plain question: who really cares?

What, if any, bearing does this week's "Microsoft Interesting News Item" have to do with Linux? Why do we fundamentally care about the Outlook exploit-of-the-week, why do we care about how much IE sucks or doesn't suck? Why do we care if Microsoft's stock price rockets, making its investors rich, or drops like a stone? Why do we now care about Windows' market share?

Microsoft is now, in a very strong sense of the word, irrelevant to the future of the computer industry. Windows 2000 will have its market share, people will integrate it into their networks and their homes, but who really cares? It will not effect Linux except as a potential alternative means of accomplishing certain very limited tasks in a controlled environment. So why do we care? Linux is quickly becoming a fundamental staple of the Internet and the computing industry. Windows is simply obsolete. Who on Earth fundamentally cares about what they're up to right now, and why should I? They are a necessary evil, not something even worthy of the attention of Linux-based news sites.

Many Linux users simply ignore Windows; not out of some obsessive mind-consuming hatred and zealotry as some would have you believe, but simply because the OS simply doesn't cut the mustard. The tasks many of us do simply can not be filled by a Microsoft ActivePro Solution 2000 Professional. I use Windows NT at work. I get stuff done. I even know a few tricks about hacking the registry, and I understand the basic structure of the OS. I even like it! That don't mean I care one way or another what happens to it in five years, or even if it'll be around in five years. It is quite simply irrelevant to me.

So you might imagine my (and perhaps most people's) reaction to the constant harping on Windows this, and Microsoft that, and Bill Gates whosis, on popular Linux sites. Realistically, who cares?

But enough stupid rhetoric. The answer should be obvious: Windows and Microsoft is Linux's perceived competitor. It is nearly impossible in the news media today to see Microsoft mentioned in a sentence without seeing the word "Linux" also mentioned, usually within a paragraph or two. Windows and Linux are competing on a few fronts, to varying degrees: developer and company mindshare, Internet servers, embedded devices, desktop machines, and so on.

But realistically, why should we care? If Linux does the job we need it to do, great. If it doesn't, it soon will. The same cannot be said about Windows. How long will it be before a decent package management system is in place? How long before we can install Win2k over FTP? How long before we can run Windows off a floppy on a 386 as a router? Not only is it not going to happen, there's no way to make it happen, not even the tiniest prayer of seeing it happen unless it somehow needs to be on a feature list somewhere. And you know what? Odds are that no Linux distribution will ever have an integrated Web browser in the same vein as IE, or any of the all-in-one uber-programs that seem to proliferate in the Windows camp.

Some people might construe this as unfairly bashing Microsoft. But frankly, most people don't care enough to either compliment or tear down Microsoft. What is annoying is the constant obsession with the concept that Windows and Linux constantly have to compete! They both have their niches, they both have their constraints and advocates, and they're both good for different things. The real importance is knowing when and where to use each to its effective maximum abilities in a proper role -- and those roles will tend to change drastically over time. In any case, there are, what, 400 million computers in use worldwide? Leaving about 5,600,000,000 more? Both Linux and Windows will flourish over the next few years, and plenty of money will be made off both.

So why this obsession? It's not healthy. Can't we just all get along?

Rob Bos (rbos@linux.com) is a university student and lab technician at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. He enjoys free beer, free speech, and cats. Cats are nice. He also has much humility and is most definitely an accurate source of information about himself.





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