To listen to my fellow bloggers, Robin Harris and Michael Krigsman, you would think that it's all over for desktop Linux, with the OS once again being relegated to the server room while Windows 7 is the be all to end all of desktop operating systems. To that I say, baloney!
I don't just say this as a fanboy. I use Linux, Mac, XP, and Vista, and I'm downloading Windows 7 beta as we speak. Even in my post yesterday, I noted that there was a compelling body of software that already exists in Windows and emerging around the Windows-based Classmate. That being said, a huge body of software exists for desktop Linux, most of which is free (we like free things in education) and OS X is hardly hurting for software (educational and otherwise).
Mostly, though, I say it because utility computing is going to become a hell of a lot more important than the latest features from Microsoft, Canonical, or Apple. Can it get us online, get us into the cloud, and play our multimedia files?
If somebody wrote a post telling me that the desktop OS was dead at the hands of Google, I'd say not yet, but maybe sooner than we think. But to say that Windows 7, just because it can run faster than Vista on a netbook, has effectively killed desktop Linux just doesn't make sense.
The students and teachers I support can do virtually anything they need to do on any desktop OS I hand them. I have all of our mission-critical software running under Wine and all have Windows and OS X clients. For a long time, there will be applications (a multimedia lab, for example) where it makes sense to pick an OS that runs the most software in the most stable manner possible. However, there will be many more places where cheap netbooks, thin clients, or even ultra-cheap desktops will make as much, if not more sense.
Whether those devices run Linux or some flavor of Windows won't really matter, as long as the OS of choice is stable, secure, and fast. Maybe Windows 7 will fill the bill, but I think it's pretty safe to say that a lot of *nix software will do the same.