2008: Linux's year on the desktop

2008: Linux's year on the desktop

Summary: Desktop Linux hurts MicrosoftLinux has kept a big chunk of the server business out of Microsoft's hands. But in 2008, Linux will hurt Microsoft on the desktop.


Desktop Linux hurts Microsoft Linux has kept a big chunk of the server business out of Microsoft's hands. But in 2008, Linux will hurt Microsoft on the desktop. Here's how.

A new computing platform Thanks to Moore's Law and evolving application needs, a new computing platform arrives every 10 years. Mainframes in the '50s, minicomputers in the '60s, PCs in the '70s, microcontrollers in the '80s, PDAs and cell phones in the '90s and now sub-$400 - soon to be sub-$300 notebooks.

Small and light enough to be carried everywhere, these sub-notes provide Internet access, PDA functionality and basic mail and document creation functionality at a rock-bottom price. Asustek is expected to build 1,000,000 Eee sub-notes in Q1 '08 alone. Asustek's competitors are just getting warmed up.

What can Microsoft do? Microsoft has gotten fat on the $50 Windows tax it charges PC manufacturers. But on a razor-thin margin vendors can't afford Windows.

So they're going with Linux. If Asustek sells 5 million Eee's, and their competitors sell another 5 million, several million consumers will be introduced to desktop Linux for the first time.

And millions of copies of Windows and Office won't be sold.

Microsoft will skate in '08 For all the attention Apple gets for its growing market share, the Linux-based sub-$400 notebook/sub-$200 desktop unit sales will be several times as large in 2008. Even combined this won't hurt Microsoft in 2008, thanks to the growing migration to Vista.

2009 is a different story. 25 million Linux desktops will take a bite out of Microsoft sales - one that Wall Street will certainly notice.

The Storage Bits take Microsoft's days as a de facto monopoly are coming to an end - and not a moment too soon. Increasingly desperate attacks on Linux will intensify, but how does Microsoft go after Wal-Mart?

Comments welcome, of course. How should Microsoft respond to very-low-cost Linux systems?

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

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  • Windows -> Open Source!

    I think Microsoft should respond my slowing making Windows open-source. I think immediately making the entire source available would kill Microsoft, because businesses and corporations using Windows would freak out. If Microsoft were to slowly open source Windows, it would allow the businesses and corporations to get a feel for open source and its advantages. In my opinion, Windows is a great OS in theory, but Microsoft needs the help of the public to optimize (in other words, fix) Windows.

    Windows XP was great, but Windows Vista has, so far, flopped. If XP went open-source, Vista could have been a whole lot better. I feel if Microsoft were to open source Vista, we would have another XP-like system, one that everyone likes (and that's stable).
    • Open source M$

      I doubt that M$ will do anything open source soon. If so, opening up 2000 Professional would be far more likely. This would be a fair choice. I would say that 2000 Pro is still a tad bit easier to use in a "Windows only" shop then Linux is.

      Still, I feel that Linux is the superior system as is the MAC. Of course, your dollar goes much further with Linux. It is possible to dual boot Linux with Vista. This laptop that I'm using right now does just that. Linux is far faster then Vista Business.
    • Nothing Magical about OSS

      Anyone who thinks that simply opening the source of their software will make it better is fooling themselves. To be a success, OSS projects need wide developer community support and significant control by that community over the direction the project takes. The first doesn't happen automatically and is much less likely to happen without the second condition being true. Also, if the quality of the code is the bloated unmaintainable mess that Windows is rumored to be it won't attract the OSS developer talent it need to flourish as a OSS project.

        OSS (OpenSource) = Socialism; CSS (ClosedSource) = Capitalism.

        They both have their place in the world.

        Just like diesel engines and gasoline engines... both do basically the same thing, BUT, how many diesel race cars are out there?

        A diesel race-card could be created I suppose, but a diesel engine is not intended for acceleration. it's not it's STRENGTH. Fuel economy and torque are.

        Yet they sell BOTH diesel and gasoline at the gas station. So is CSS better for consumers? Trends and history would suggest this, wouldn't it?
        • Diesel ain't just for trucks

          Diesel actually is a perfectly capable fuel, ever heard of a BMW 530d?

          PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph 6.8s / Max Speed 152mph
          FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 42.2mpg

          Sounds like diesel is perfectly able to accelerate, its development just hasn't had the developmental attention petrol has.

          Just like OSS, and it's catching up fast.
        • Wrong

          That's a clear example that technology moves and improvements are not a US speciality. Diesel race cars exists, the Le Mans was won the last two years by a diesel AUDI, and more are coming.The AUDO R10 produces 650 HP at 500 rpms, an the powernad is between 3000 and 5000 rpm, compare with a F1 engine running 16-17000 rpms. In the 2004 race Lola used a Diesel too, and both MBW and vW has raced diesel engined saloons.
          Diesel engines were big heavy chunky machinery of castiron, low revs, lots of torque. Why? Because they were made for ships where weight is of very little importance, then transferred to trains where a heavy locomotive is desireable, and finally into trucks and now saloon cars. Things evolve, mostly into slimmer, lighter smarter and cheaper versions.

          Did Windows evolve into something lighter, smarter, slimmer and cheaper? Did it even improve with each new version?
          • correction

            Sorry left out a zero.
            650HP DIN is produced at 5000 revs, with the powerband between 3000 and 5000. Also fuel effiiency are much better. At a time they did 16 laps - 217 km on 90 litres of fuel. Thats about 2.4 km to the litre at a mean speed of 230 km/h and top speed just under 400 km/h. Compare to a F1 with about the same performance and speeds using roughly 1 l/km.
          • Sorry...

            ..while the R10 is impressive (fuel economy and power wise), it is NOT in the same league with an F1 car in on track performance.
        • Your analogy is faulty....

          ...A Diesel powered Audi just dominated Le Mans endurance racing this year and won the Le Mans 24 hours.

          You Americans may not be aware because you have a lot of oil available in Alaska, but we europeans love Diesel engines so much that Audi (german luxury cars) won the world famous Le Mans 24 hours race last year...with a powerful Diesel engine.
          For my family car, the diesel engine consumes only 2 gallons per 100 kilometers (sorry I am not used with conversion) so it is 30% percent more efficient than gazoline version.
          So, you need to update your vision, diesel is ALREADY better than gazoline. First french hybrid car will come with diesel next year !
        • Diesel race cards and OSS

          Your remark about diesel race cars is ironic. Diesel race cars are in fact taking the sport by storm, and handicaps are being placed upon them in order to prop their gasoline-based competitors up and keep the races "fair". It's no surprise that the same thing is happening to to OSS: the companies who back proprietary software as a business model are placing as many handicaps on OSS as possible, claiming that it makes the race more "fair". When the handicaps finally come off, we'll see who the real winner is.
    • Microsoft can't open source Windows

      for a very good reason. It's a software company and it's business is selling software and Windows is its main product line. Look at the other larger corporations that have embraced open source:

      Their open source software either is either not part of their main product lines or they are offering software service solutions with the software thrown in as an extra. Microsoft's business model is to sell software with services thrown in as an extra.
      • Windozz Service??

        Have never reieved that from M$, Dell, Compaq, HP, yep.. but never M$...
    • Clearly you don't understand.

      I have been in the business a very long time. I have heard every excuse to open the source code wide open. When it comes to operating system, the one thing you do not want is some joker with little or no knowledge of his underlying effects on the OS.

      Microsoft, for all the taunts and rasberries it gets, has done an excellent job on thier operating system. Anyone can use any part of it. Where Microsoft has failed is their technet is often cryptic and difficult to search. But the information is there for anyone with an internet connection.

      I would be more apt to choose a mainline manfacturer like MS or Apple with a support structure before I chose a Linux distro for my office users. The only exception to this is if the distro was controlled and supported like MS and Apple do.

      Don't get me wrong, I am all for new development and innovation. But, I will not implement an untested and unsupported product to my users. And no, some college user group is not what I consider viable support.
      • Maybe you are too long in the field

        I was also skeptical to "unsupported" OS until I tried Ubuntu 7.10. I'm currently considering implementing it in my office for the very reasons you do not want to: I don't want a kid installing things at work and all the stuff I need to support office operations I have with Linux. Of course it is not top 100 world developers environment and not even 500 Fortune ivory tower, but a normal small-enterprise business. The hardware that was nonoperational under Windows XP flies with 15% of CPU utilization and under 512MB or RAM use. I have not used my swapfile yet...
        • Unsupported? Ever hear of Red Hat, Novell, or Canonical?

          It's very untrue that there aren't any supported linux distributions. Red Hat Corporation supports their Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop and Server distribution, Novell supports their SuSE Enterprise Desktop & Server, and now Canonical Supports their Ubuntu distribution line of Linux distributions. A person/company can buy support from these companies for their particular brand of Linux for companies/ corporations that care to switch to linux and want/need to have a backup plan in event of a problem, as well as someone to sue should they lose extremely valuable data necessary for the business. The support license that Red Hat gives is a little cheaper than a MS Windows license for a particular # of desktops and the desktops don't have to worry about getting all the types of typical Windows viruses freely available for infection upon download or internet connection.
          Just my own couple cents on the issue.
  • Are you for real?

    You must either work for Microsoft or running XP thinking it is Vista. Maybe you
    consider dozens of Blue screen of death messages the WOW part of Vista. Fortunately
    drivers for Linux are becoming less and less of a problem. Dell machines will even
    ship with Ubuntu if you wanted them to! I don't understand how the Home Basic
    version of Windows is going to drive Microsoft to success. I understand the concept
    of lower income computing and how important it is, but I definitely don't consider it
    the savior of computing.
    • That's Mikey. He's very insightful.

      He and his Rep have solved many a world crises.
    • How dare you doubt the mighty Cox?

      Are you not aware that singlehandedly (well, double actually - Mike and his boy wonder "Rep"), Mike Cox is taking on and winning over legions of Linux users worldwide, convincing them of the error of there ways?

      All bow down to Gates, his 2nd in command Ballmer, and the self-appointed nom de guerre, Mike Cox, who is unfailing spreading the gospel that is Vista...

      [i]For the sarcasm impaired, the above is an example. Fortunately, those who do not know of the exploits of the one commenter here at ZDNet who calls himself "Mike Cox" are few and far between. Mikenov, are you new around here? If so, then you should know that "Mike Cox" is probably actually a Linux supporter who goes overboard with sarcastic praise of Microsoft. At least, we THINK he's a Linux geek at heart - no one can be that snowed under by Microsoft's FUD...[/i]
      • But it's always fun....

        to see the newbies who first encounter a Mike Cox post. It just make life seems that much more worthwhile, eh? ;-)