Originally Published: Wednesday, 8 September 1999 Author: Jeff Alami
Published to: columnists/Jeff Alami Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Call to Arms: Why the Battle is So Important

The history of the computer industry is littered with the corpses of "Windows-killers." These are the operating systems and applications that were once labeled as harbingers of the prophecy of Microsoft's demise. Software such as OS/2 and Java, destined to crush the so-called "Evil Empire," failed miserably at the hands (claws?) of the beasts from Redmond....

   Page 1 of 1  

The history of the computer industry is littered with the corpses of "Windows-killers." These are the operating systems and applications that were once labeled as harbingers of the prophecy of Microsoft's demise. Software such as OS/2 and Java, destined to crush the so-called "Evil Empire," failed miserably at the hands (claws?) of the beasts from Redmond.

A new contender, Linux, is entering the ring. Once again, the mainstream press calls Linux a "Windows-killer." They say it's popular. They say it's growing. They say it has the backing of important industry figures. To an extent, the press pundits are correct. Most Linux users will agree that it is a stable, secure, and high-performance operating system. Well-known corporations including Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and SGI are backing the platform; practically everyone except for Microsoft is falling head over heels for Linux. In the eyes of many industry watchers, Linux is poised to take at least some market share away from Windows.

But why do we incessantly plug Linux as the David against Windows' Goliath? Why the term "Windows-killer?" Why do we visualise the OS marketplace as a gory battlefield, with a call to arms from the Linux camp? Why is the battle so important?

Some would say it's because a great deal of computer users hate Windows with a passion. It's because these users are disgusted by the fact that such a crappy piece of software could make it to 90% of the desktop PC's in existence. Yeah, it's all Microsoft's fault, they say. Microsoft brought it on themselves.

And I admit, I don't like getting near a Windows system, nor would I ever support the platform. Grueling months of Windows PC support have left me withered, still frightened by the Blue Screen of Death -- even if it is really just a screensaver on a Linux system. I sure wouldn't complain if Linux and the Free Software movement annihilated Microsoft.

Linux was never intended to be competition to Windows, however. Kernel development came about because Linus wanted a free Unix-like system on his 386. The almost-political struggle for universal Free Software created the GNU applcations and tools on which Linux depends. Many of the other applications that make up the OS were developed not as competition to anyone, but as academic or individual projects.

However, competition is what fuels capitalism, and it fuels the growth of companies. Let's face it: conflict is an inherent part of human nature. Companies live and die in a fiercely competitive environment unlike anything the Linux world has ever seen. An environment where predator pricing, corporate espionage, and under-handed deals awaits the fledgling Linux corporations.

Linux is primarily fueled by the work of thousands of developers worldwide who are coding away with no interest in money or conflict. The goal is to create good-quality, useful software and to share it with other users. But without knowing (or caring), they are essentially becoming the arms providers for the the Linux and Open Source side of the operating system wars. For the people who fight these wars, the battle is oh so very important.

Jeff Alami (jeff@linux.com) is the Editor-in-Chief of Linux.com. In fact, he breathes, eats and sleeps Linux.com. Somebody please help him find a life!





   Page 1 of 1