Sure, it's a nicely polished operating system. It's very pretty, looks to have solid performance on a variety of platforms, and a large ecosystem of compatible hardware and software. But it's just another operating system. Hand it to anyone under the age of 25 and the only question they'll ask is "where's the web browser?"
In response to my post yesterday on IBM's and Canonical's Smart Work Client asking if it might be a viable alternative to Windows 7 in schools, I received the following message from @zelrick on Twitter:
consider kids future before using odd stuff. How many Macs, Ubento [sic],Open Office, Goog apps in the worlds offices?
Two million businesses using Google Apps is nothing to sneeze at. Latin American adoption of Linux is quite high, as is anti-Microsoft sentiment. Our students today will be interacting with those "world's offices" in a myriad of ways, all of which are focused on the web, rather than Windows.
The numbers are largely irrelevant though. What matters are predictions coming from Gartner (and elsewhere):
The advice came as part of a talk on top trends coming in 2010 that companies should incorporate into their strategic planning, if not necessarily their own computer systems. The full list of 10: 1. cloud computing; 2. advanced analytics; 3. client computing; 4. IT for green; 5. reshaping the data center; 6. social computing; 7. security--activity monitoring; 8. flash memory; 9. virtualization for availability; and 10. mobile applications.
Cloud computing tops the list, but virtualization, reshaping the data center, social computing, and mobile applications all point to the changing nature of how we compute. Since a BlackBerry doesn't run Windows, is it "odd stuff" in @zelrick's words? How about the millions of iPhones out there? Social media don't care what operating system your using. Can you access LinkedIn from Ubuntu? Windows 7? Your mobile phone?
Even Windows Live Web Apps works on Mac and Linux desktop clients.
So guess what, kids? Windows 7, for many users (especially in the educational space where the focus should be creating content and often isn't tied to particular mission-critical software), is just another platform for their web browser. It's a pretty platform, but so is Ubuntu. Android's pretty slick, too. Opera Mini on my BlackBerry works like a champ. Safari on the iPhone is great. I'm really digging Opera 10 on my Mac.
Now, more than ever, Windows 7 hype aside, technologies other than your desktop OS will drive your computing experience. Maybe Windows 7 will be your desktop platform of choice. It's a perfectly fine choice. However, as long as the alternatives allow your users to access the resources they need for learning and interacting, then they certainly don't constitute "odd stuff."