Yes, Ubuntu can absolutely be the default Windows alternative

Yes, Ubuntu can absolutely be the default Windows alternative

Summary: And I don't just mean for geeks. I mean a real, viable alternative to Windows for many users despite the apparent quality of both Windows 7 and Server 2008.


And I don't just mean for geeks. I mean a real, viable alternative to Windows for many users despite the apparent quality of both Windows 7 and Server 2008.

About a year and a half ago, ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes asked, "Is Ubuntu becoming the generic Linux distro?" and concluded that "the evolution of Ubuntu into the generic Linux distro isn’t a bad thing". Fair enough, but Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth took this idea a bit farther during a press conference call yesterday:

"We've already done a lot of work in developer ecosystem and we're now increasingly interested in the non-developer consumer ecosystem, so that's what all the OEM work is about," Shuttleworth said, declaring that his focus was on "making sure that Ubuntu gets pre-installed and Ubuntu is available from and others and making sure that Ubuntu is the default alternative to Windows."

He didn't mention Apple, which, to many consumers, is the only alternative to Windows. For all its buzz in the tech world, Linux (or Ubuntu) is hardly a household word. Competing with Apple, though, which already has an impressive ecosystem of hardware and is the reigning king of usability, doesn't make sense anyway and this ad from Novell would never fly outside of the tech community:

So how can I be so confident that Shuttleworth's vision of becoming the "default alternative", and not just the default Linux for those geeky enough to try it, will become a reality? Because he very clearly tied it to a vision of platform. If Ubuntu can work well on every device users encounter (including non-Intel smartbooks and other new classes of portable devices that will be emerging in the next couple of years, displacing notebooks for many consumers), then name recognition will follow.

Obviously, the PC space is dominated by Windows. Yet no matter how spiffy Windows 7 is (and even Shuttleworth acknowledged that it was a good OS, worthy of competing with Ubuntu), Vista taught us all a lesson (consumers and techies alike). There are alternatives to the latest and greatest from Microsoft, even if that's Windows XP. We don't have to upgrade.

This "PC space" is changing, though. Windows Mobile stinks. Microsoft has no plans to develop Windows on ARM platforms. The cloud is here, not because of the economy, but because of the value businesses perceive in it. Ubuntu is actively developing in all of these spaces and their latest, highly polished OS (available Thursday) shows off many of the technologies.

What forced Microsoft to crank out it's best OS in years (some might say it's best ever and certainly the most stable prior to a service pack or two)? Competition. Competition from Apple, certainly, but also a growing awareness of open source concepts in general. Many artists are releasing DRM-free music (and still making money). Books are widely and freely available. Content is everywhere, much of it for free. Something that you pay for, then, like Windows, better be a heck of a lot better than its free alternatives. Competition is our friend, whether we're consumers, pro users, or CIOs.

Microsoft may very well continue to dominate the desktop PC space. However, a quick look around at the variety of ways people access online content and cloud-based resources suggests that the importance of the desktop PC as we know it is diminishing. Ubuntu is ready to capitalize on that in ways that the average consumer won't recognize until he or she finds him or herself using Ubuntu on a MID, a netbook, a kiosk, a phone, a virtualized OS, or a smartbook. Can Apple, Microsoft, or any other Linux distributor say that? Competition might be our friend, but an ubiquitous platform is the friend of developers who can start creating the next generation of killer apps, easily ported to whatever screen we might be using.

Topics: Windows, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • This "commercial" spoof is much better

    • Awesome

      Not a fan of South Park but that was hilarious.
      Viva la crank dodo
    • Excellent choice sir!

      You couldn't find a better match for your intellectual level.

      Remember Gandhi's words? They are <a href="">here</a> and we are already at reaching the end of stage 3.
      The Mentalist
      • Cluck, cluck, cluck

        Just more chicken scratch, nothing more.
        • Keep scratching..

          ..nobody cares.
    • meh

      Audio was cruddy, animation was poor, and the description was used as advertising space. The content of the spoof (if you could call it that) was really lacking, and overall not that funny.

      That, and I actually like southpark. Thankfully whoever made that video has no affiliation with southpark.

      Let's just say I'm glad the blogger picked the video he did, and not yours.
      • meh

        You must need to upgrade O/S or get a new machine.
    • Loved that one!

      You have to watch all the way to the end to get the real message. I agree totally with the ending! :D
    • OMG - that's funny...nt

  • 2010: Year of Linux!!!


    Dawson, you're such a tool.
    • He did not say 2010 or even 2011 was the year of Linux. He did observe that

      Linux is getting a lot better, even better than
      Windows 7. But, any way you look at it, the
      familiarity with Windows the OS and the brand,
      and the application compatibility, will
      guarantee MS a very good stream of revenue for
      the short term. MS can not hold out forever,
      there will be a tipping point. MS may have moved
      on to another cash cow by then.
      • Cash Cow?

        Uhm, Linux is in it for money too. That is to say, Red Hat, Suse, and many others.

        If you want usable support - that costs money.

        If you want support from commercial vendors for that camera, webcam, scanner, touchscreen, or mp3 gadget, you need to pay for it.

        Is everyone (company) supposed to give their support away for free?

        Is this DPRK?

        Of course MS will move to another Cash Cow. As does Red Hat, Novell, Sun, Apple, HP, and on and on and on...

        Just because Ubuntu is better today than ever before does not mean anything more than it is better than ever before.

        What works in theory may not work in practice.

        MS and Apple have OS's that people enjoy using. You cannot argue with numbers folks. It is just as simple as numbers. People are willing to pay for a product that they like.

        Beating the drum of M$ and fanboy this and fanboy that...nice rhetoric.
        • As I said in another thread...

          @Raid6: Wake up and smell the coffee.

          In the 1980's people loved and had lots of VHS machines. All the software (movies) ran in VHS and no studio favored any alternative, which was one of the reasons Sony abandoned Beta in favor of VHS. But that didn't meant that dominion would last forever.

          Then came LaserDiscs. Few bought them and movies even downplayed them (see "Amazon women on the moon": 'It's not compatible with my system')

          In the late 90's and 2000's came digital video and DVD (grand son of the LaserDisc, and what Ubuntu will be today) and D-VHS arrived (akin to Vista). I have yet to see someone own a D-VHS machine or a "D-Theater" movie. DVD rules and DVD-R killed what was left of the videorecorder industry.

          Reason: movies are movies, and they are easier to create on stamped media like CD, DVD or BluRay.

          Same might happen with Windows. Only time will tell. In the mean time. Stop trolling...
          • BTW: D-VHS plays in HD...

            after JVC changed the meaning to Digital VHS... aka better video than DVD... so why did people prefered DVD?...

            Think in that direction when you think about Windows 7
          • Feel better now?

            Does making your two comments public feel like pinching a loaf to you?

            Feel better now?
        • Kudos

          I have to say, this was a truly thought-out response. Nice job.
        • Cash Cow?

          I use Kubuntu (the KDE version of ubuntu) and when I can't figure out how to do something I go to the support pages for these releases. There is a lot of support pages for Linux and to say you need to buy the support is completely wrong.
        • You might want to read before replying so you don't look the fool.

          There's no instance of "M$" or "fanboy" in his
          whole post. Nice rhetoric though.

          And he was obviously talking about OS sales (that
          MS make a lot of money selling Windows) not
          support. Although they probably make a lot of
          money selling support too, since Windows needs so
          • Interesting

            I have never nor know anybody that has actually contacted Microsoft for support. It's too expensive and it's not needed anyway.
          • Used M$ support once, anyway...

            This may not be the kind of support you're talking about but I lost a CD key for Office 2000 and called Microsoft to see if anything could be done. They checked my credentials and gave me a new key. I was surprised.