Windows 8's downfall still doesn't give Linux a chance

Windows 8's downfall still doesn't give Linux a chance

Summary: As much as I'd like to see Linux rise from the depths of obscurity to give Microsoft and its Windows platform a serious run for its money, it's just not going to happen -- at least not any time soon.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Having spent a considerable amount of time with a variety of Windows 8 builds on a broad array of hardware platforms, and I'm now almost certain that a Windows 8 flop is inevitable. Whether it flops as hard as Windows Vista did remains to be seen, but I can't see Microsoft's forthcoming operating system being as well-received -- or as well-loved -- as the aging Windows XP or the incumbent Windows 7.

What does this mean for Linux? Nothing.

I've already looked in some depth at what's wrong with Windows 8 in an earlier post. I summed up my experiences with Microsoft's freshest operating system with a single word: awful. The new operating system contains too many unnecessary and seemingly arbitrary changes that do nothing to improve the user experience.

The most glaring and irritating of these superfluous changes is the Metro user interface, a bolt-on aimed at tablet users that has gone on to infect the entire operating system. The Metro user interface in Windows 8 wasn't born out of a need or demand; it was born out of a desire on Microsoft's part to exert its will on the PC industry and decide to shape it in a direction -- touch and tablets -- that allows it to compete against, and remain relevant in the face of, Apple's iPad.

The Windows 8 Metro user interface feels to me like something out of the mind of a child asked to draw a futuristic car. They'd give you the general car shape and then bolt on something like wings or rockets, and so rather than ending up with something new and practical, you end up sticking on the refrigerator door a Frankenstein's monster of cobbled together parts that are clumsy and impractical.

Microsoft might repeatedly use the phrase "fast and fluid" to describe Windows 8, but to me it's "clumsy and impractical".

After a decade of attempting to carve out a market for Windows-powered tablets, there's still no proven market for these devices, and yet Microsoft is willing to bet the success of Windows 8 on being able to make tablets work when the majority of users will be interacting with the new operating system on traditional desktop and notebook systems.

I'm not alone in thinking this way either. Off-the-record discussions I've had with my contacts inside some of the world's largest hardware OEMs suggest that there's an incredible amount of apprehension over how Windows 8 will be received, and what effect this will have on their bottom line.

Traditionally, a Windows launch has been harvest time for the hardware OEMs, a time when they can sell PCs in greater volume and with more ease than usual. However, the way that Windows Vista flopped demonstrated to the OEMs that the harvest could fail, and fail big. The OEMs feel that Microsoft is gambling with Windows 8, and that the gamble won't pay off. Not only that, but analysts are already cutting the target prices on Dell and HP, and Windows 8 is still a few months away.

ZDNet's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols believes that the gamble that Microsoft is taking with Windows 8, along with the way the company has upset hardware partners by wading into the hardware business, will encourage hardware vendors to take a look at Linux as it looks to boost razor thin margins.

"Heck," writes Vaughan-Nichols, "thanks to [Microsoft CEO] Ballmer's desktop and partner mis-steps maybe we finally will see a year of the Linux desktop after all!"

As much as I'd like to see Linux rise from the depths of obscurity to give Microsoft and Windows a serious run for its money, it's just not going to happen -- at least not any time soon.

There are just too many factors working against Linux for it to gain any serious traction on desktop or notebook platforms. For that matter, given the poor reception that Android has received on tablet devices, that platform may not be suited to Linux either.

The reason comes down to a single issue -- compatibility.

When people buy a Windows license, they're not just buying the right to use operating system on a specific piece of hardware, they're also buying a warm and fuzzy feeling of security that most of the hardware and software they ran on the old operating system will continue to work on the new operating system.

People -- consumers and enterprise users alike -- love the idea of compatibility because it's a handy insurance policy against nasty surprises down the line. We live in a world where the bulk of the software and hardware around us is designed for Windows, and that gives it an enormous advantage when it comes to being able to offer the comfort of compatibility.

When people think about compatibility, they're actually thinking about it from two perspectives. First, there's backward-compatibility with existing hardware and software. Traditionally, when people talk about compatibility, this is what they mean.

Put simply, they want the new stuff to work with the old stuff because it reduces on costs and keeps the learning curve shallow. However, there's another form of compatibility that I call future-compatibility.

This is a comfort that people draw from the notion that their new system will be compatible with whatever they want to do in the future, be that install fresh software onto it, or plug in some new hardware.

Windows fulfills both of these criteria. Not only there's a good chance that a new version of Windows will be compatible with any existing hardware and software investment, but that it will work with whatever will be bought in the future, as long as there's a Windows logo on the box.

And let's face it; most things have that Windows logo on the box somewhere.

This is where Linux fall flat on its face. While it's quite easy to get a Linux distro such as Ubuntu or Mint working on a desktop or notebook, it doesn't offer the same compatibility guarantees that a Windows installation does.

When it comes to backward-compatibility, unless you're lucky enough that your old Windows software will under an application like Wine on Linux, then you're completely out of luck and will need to seek out replacements. As far as hardware goes, it's very much luck of the draw as to whether you'll find Linux drivers or not.

One thing's for sure: you'll have to do a lot of legwork to find out.

Future-compatibility is also far from guaranteed. Linux might have been around for a couple of decades, but as far as the majority of hardware vendors are concerned, it doesn't exist. You're going to have to research any future purchases. And if you think that the hardware market for Linux is a deserted wasteland, the software market is like being on the moon.

You can forget about most commercial software such as image editing, video editing and games ever running on the operating system, and you're mostly confined to whatever exists in the free and open source arena.

I like Linux, in fact I like it a lot, but I also recognize that it's not for everyone. It's great for those who understand that it's not Windows, and who know better than to expect it to work like Windows, but these people are in the minority. It's also great for people like Vaughan-Nichols' 80-year old mother-in-law who isn't going to want to run the latest Adobe Photoshop application or Call of Duty game on the system. These people are also in a minority.

While some people have managed to jump ship and migrate to Apple's OS X, as far as most are concerned, Windows is the secret sauce that makes a PC a PC.

If Windows 8 is going to flop, and Linux isn't going to take its place, what's going to happen? Simple. Exactly what happened when Windows Vista flopped --- the older operating system will take up the slack.

Enterprise will continue to demand Windows 7, because to roll out Windows 8 ‘properly' the costs will rocket due to mass purchase of touch-enabled hardware and additional user interface training while the OEMs will sell Windows 7 PCs alongside Windows 8 systems because they will find it almost impossible to present the benefits of Windows 8 on desktop systems. Microsoft will once again find itself in a position where it has to offer longer-term support for the older operating system.

If Windows 8 flops, I think that we can safely say that Windows 9 will look significantly different to Windows 8, and Microsoft will more than likely switch back to the ‘traditional' Windows interface in an attempt to distances itself from the entire fiasco.

Image source: ZDNet.

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Topic: Windows

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272 comments
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  • Trying,

    to get everybody to dislike you?
    daikon
    • Realization

      I preface this with saying I used to be a huge baseball fan up until the strike in the mid-90s. Ever since I find it to be old, slow, and boring. Of course, as a devote sports fan, I still get more than enough info from ESPN. I'm from the midwest and still hate the arrogance of the Yankees. Now I'm an extremely devote soccer fan.

      I've come to a realization. The "typical" ZDNet blogger is like your typical New York Yankees hater. Well, more of the kind that live in Boston and hate the Yankees. No matter what Microsoft/Yankees do, everyone is going to hate it. Some bloggers, like AKH and SVSJ are more like Florida/Miami Marlins fans. No matter the product on the field, no body cares, but damn it they are going to make it sound like the stands are packed for every game they play.

      My one visit in my adult lifetime to the NYC area resulted in me almost demanding the sports radio station be switched off, something I would almost never do. Why? This was in the early 2000's when the Yankee's had just won three in a row and appeared in like five out of six World Series. My hometown Tigers hadn't seen the playoffs in years. The Yankees folks were talking about the need to upgrade some position where they already had one of the top players in the game.

      I can understand where people that hate Microsoft are coming from... you want to see the Yankees lose at all costs because even when they are bad, they are still probably better than your hometown team and for sure more popular worldwide. That said, the reality of it is the Yankees aren't going anywhere. That would be like the University of Michigan football team having losing teams for years on end... there is just too much history and too many people are invested in it to happen. Or the Brazilian national soccer team failing to qualify for a world cup. Pigs will fly before Brazil will miss a world cup.

      One thing is always true here... passionate fans make horrible commentators. In 2002, I would have told you why I thought the US mens national soccer team should have and very well could have won the world cup... it's a very compelling argument. I'll also tell you why I thought the US was robbed of making a huge statement in 2006, but were screwed over by lousy officials. And because of what happened in 2006, losing to Ghana again in 2010 was almost unavoidable. I will never tell you that I believe the US should lose a game because I am a die-hard, passionate US mens soccer team fan. Sure, there are probably a couple hundred, maybe even a thousand more like me around the area. Does that mean we are right in our thinking? I'll even tell you the answer is a big fat no.

      Here's the bottom line. Talk all you want about your passions, but leave the rest to the people that know it best, which clearly anything related to Windows is not yours, Adrian (and anyone else not named Matthew Miller, Mary Jo Foley or Ed Botts that writes for ZDNet*). *My apologies if I missed any other ZDNet blogger that actually has a genuine interest in Microsoft products, but sadly, I think it is down to you three.*
      ikissfutebol
      • It must be good marketing?

        Precisely correct. The best part is reading that people like Adrian can't figure out Windows 8. He says when he looks at the Start Screen he is completely lost. And yet, he gets paid for something here.

        Another way to look at these guys is the Ford/Chevy/Chrysler argument. The readers take an irrational position: "If my wife were in labor, I wouldn't take her to the hospital in a Ford", and the writers cater to this. Just like Apple/Microsoft/Linux. And, just like here, most of the people that write about cars couldn't change the air cleaner, they just cater to peoples prejudices. Adrian says he can't figure out the Start Screen in Win 8. If he is that clueless, why would I listen to ANYTHING he says.

        If fact, I've been thinking about taking a look at Ubuntu 12.04, just to see what's changed in the last two years. But if Adrian is the voice of Linux, I'll just take a pass.
        pishaw
        • Yes. Its bizarre. Its weird and its unaccountable.

          Follow this wickedly hedged statement:

          "a Windows 8 flop is inevitable. Whether it flops as hard as Windows Vista did remains to be seen"

          It means that Windows 8 might do better than Vista even in the mind of AKH. Well, here are the dynamics on that. While Vista didn't get the kind of rave reviews Microsoft would have liked, the fact is it got plenty of installs and would have got a whole lot more if it were not for Windows 7 coming out as quick as it did.

          Its a totally bizarre outlook AKH has. Its as if he doesn't get some part of IT at all. And course, that doesn't make sense. There are several "of course" points that he seems to be equating with "flop". And that too is purely ridiculous.

          Of course:
          1. Windows 8 will not be replacing a whole lot of Windows 7 installs by way of upgrades.
          -of course not; because Windows 7 is generally seen as the best OS Microsoft has ever produced, its relatively new, people do not want to spend money for a new OS when they have no earthly reason to. Windows 8 in itself doesn't provide piles of great new reasons to swap out Windows 7 where your not moving to a touch screen.
          -None of the real reasons why Windows 8 will not be replacing millions of Windows 7 installs over night is not because Windows 8 is bad. Its because there is no reason for most people to do it. Cut and dried. Of course.

          Of course:
          2. Microsoft knows that there is not going to be a sudden huge mass migration from Windows 7 to Windows 8. I do not care who you are, or who you think you might be, if you think Microsoft doesn't know this then your an idiot.
          -of course Microsoft knows this, how could anyone not know this. There are still millions using XP for gods sake and they refuse to move to Windows 7!! Why do you think Microsoft is offering upgrades to Windows 8 for $40? Because they KNOW!! Thats why. And they do not care. A lack of mass migration to Windows 8 does not equate with flop in Microsoft's long term plans.

          Of course:
          3. The reason why Microsoft developed Windows 8 is because touch screen is going to be the wave of the future in computing. I'm not going to get into all the reasons, but it should be clear there are plenty of reasons along with a pile of empirical evidence its a fact. Apple already has touch screen operating systems, Android is a touch screen OS, Microsoft had nothing until Windows 8. They had to get moving. Had to. It was getting close to being an absolute must.
          -Of course Microsoft developed Windows 8 to compete with other touch screen enabled operating systems. Its NOT like Microsoft has said the mouse and keyboard are now gone. This is also totally clear. What Microsoft has done, far above and beyond what any OS of any brand or kind has done is to provide a touch screen OS that is going to be full x86 compatible and provide for a complete computing experience by way of touch screen on ANY device that has a touch screen and is x86 capable. It should be clear to even the most dull witted that what MS is doing is starting to look toward the near future when touch screen computing is very likely to be far more ubiquitous than even today. And for those who do not need or want Windows 8 right now, there is still Windows 7. Which I might remind anyone wo has forgotten; Microsoft collects the cash on those sales too.

          What people like AKH refuse to acknowlege about Windows 8 is that its a clear step into the future. Perhaps because people like AKH have done nothing but bitch for years about Microsofts lack of forward thinking inovation, that now when its in their face they simply cannot recognize it for what it is.

          Windows 8 does not have to make its way onto the majority of computing devices at all in the next couple of years to be a success. No way. All Windows 8 has to do is be there and be ready for when ever it is wanted and needed. If there is so much as a single soul out there that thinks it would have been a good plan for MS to just wait for the iMac Touch capable to come out first, you truly are a wastoid. For once Microsoft has caught Apple flat footed and will likely remain miles ahead for years to come in the REAL computing touch screen form factor.

          All because of Windows 8. Thats why Windows 8 is already a success.

          Unless Mr. AKH now wants to predict that full x86 computing will never see much use in the touch screen form factor and that touch screen will remain in the realm of gadgets.

          But of course, if that is the case, its still something MS had to do given the popularlity of gadgets these days.

          You can slice and dice it ten different ways if you like, there remains no difference. Its not a question if Windows 8 will be a success, its just a quesstion as to how sucessful and how quick.

          Apperantly, even Mr. Hughes accepts the possibility that Windows 8 could beat out Vista installation rates on the desktop alone. Now that would be a simply smashing sucess for an OS who's competition is Windows 7 and OSX. And thats in the short term, and Windows 8 is for the long term.
          Cayble
      • Shellcodes coder sums it up...

        Windows 8 is another flailing effort by Microsoft to prove to its captured market that it is still "relevant" and "in the game"... meanwhile, the growing experience base of Android is going to pave the way for a new generation of users clearly open to the stable and secure world of Linux based operating systems... compatability? Who cares if you can play "Call of Duty" on your PC? You have a gamebox for that. What I do care about is if my damn PC can run a reliable word processor and give *me* control over *my* data and documents. That is clearly where Linux wins. Period.
        bbneo
        • Summed up with foolhardy assumptions.

          "Who cares if you can play "Call of Duty" on your PC"

          Of course, not just Call of Duty, dozens of other games as well. And the answer is "hundereds of millions care". This ranks up there with perhaps the most pointless of points of all time.

          "What I do care about is if my damn PC can run a reliable word processor and give *me* control over *my* data and documents"

          And of course Windows has some reputation for running word processors quite well and giving you control over your documents and data. Nothiing more needs to be said on that. Another pointless point.

          " That is clearly where Linux wins. Period"

          ?????????????????????????????????????????????

          How so? I mean really, how so? Not one single solitary point of nearly any kind that would even hint at Linux winning anything.

          PERIOD.
          Cayble
      • I agree with you...partly.

        @ikissfutebol -- When writing an article, it's a good idea to keep the passion in check. Articles should be an objective discussion (or debate) of the topic. The idea is to educate the readers, not foment a cause. (A little subjectivity is okay now and then as it brings a little flavor and personality to the piece.)

        But comment sections are open to everyone, making them public forums. Objectivity often takes a backseat...and that's okay. Comments are almost always personal opinions. If you're asking my opinion, it will be based on my subjective experiences. And the more passionate a person is about the topic, the more likely he/she is to comment. Those who don't really care probably stay out of the discussion.

        I agree that it seems to be peoples' inclinations in comment sections to bristle up and remain on the defensive. The first counter point and people jump to Def-Con 1.

        But I find a lot of good information in those rants. If you can wade through the hostility, you find that people who are passionate about a topic often have good information to share. Passion is usually based on experience and that's what I want to know.

        So I'm glad that we have fanboys in the threads...it's how I learn both sides of an argument.
        scophi
      • Someone just spoke my heart out

        Exactly what I always thought, but put together than I could, or have time to :)
        nessrapp
      • Good one,

        I too lost intererst in Baseball when they went on strike. I also lost interst in Hockey too, when they went on strke. So I only like watching sports when plyers play for the love of the Game and for their devoted fans - not play for the love of Money. I only watch UFC, American football and soccer too.
        lebulldog
      • Windows 8 = Windows Phone and Windows 7 Bastard?

        Maybe a little too simplistic. I am a Microsoft user, not just Windows. I have an XBox 360, use media streaming, music service, and various advanced aspects of Windows most do not in and outside my home network. When Windows 8 booted I was excited, then I realized I was looking at an interface which mocks my phone and desktop at the same time... bastards!

        Maybe for the average user this is good, but I'll stick with Windows 7. Maybe I missed something but Windows 8 gave me the least anticipative fulfillment of any Microsoft OS release to date (yes, even less than Windows ME).
        ryanstrassburg
        • Re:Windows 8 = Windows Phone

          Windows me was not the disaster BOB was and Metro will be 8's biggest failure in thier OS History. Windows me though saying the word Me sounds like Apples Ios being I... How ever Apple is not about to limit their Users experience and degree of customizations.
          wpreece
    • Windoze 8 will be a big flop

      that's the truth...
      shellcodes_coder
      • Not sure what "Windoze 8" is...

        ... But it sounds as if it won't beat the real deal. ;)
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Windoze?

        When you write Windoze instead of Windows and present no facts or make any kind of case, then you have no credibility. You just come off like just another dumb troll.
        j-mccurdy@...
      • shellcodes_coder is an internet troll.

        he is not only trolling on MS articles here in zdnet, but you can also see him in CNET and other sites. and all his comments is all pointless
        Odel Babor
      • Windoze

        Windoze? I'm suprised that you didn't put as M$ in there somewhere. There's only so many times your BS can get recycled.
        Blogsworth
  • Hmm...

    A Linux lover wishes for Windows 8 to flop. Can you see why reading this article might invoke the word "bias"?
    Jeff Kibuule
    • Agreed with the bias

      I've read so many articles from this guy lamenting Windows and praising Linux that I just disregard him out of hand.
      Everything he said on the article he referred to is viewpoint oriented and seems to me to be a "Me god.... me don't want to learn new OS!" even though the new OS is easier to use than the old one.
      Lerianis10
      • RE

        Dude, hes a BLOGGER Which means its HIS views,likes ,dislikes. So if ya keep coming back to read his articles then your the problem not him. Read someone elses Blog
        Stan57
      • Really?

        "I've read so many articles from this guy lamenting Windows and praising Linux that I just disregard him out of hand."

        Well, apparently you don't because it is clear you keep returning to read his articles and to make comments. If you cared so little, you would not bother.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone