Barney's Rubble

Linux (and the Mac) Aren't Even Trying

If they are trying to compete with Microsoft, we wouldn't know.

Say what you will about Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy, when they tried to topple the Microsoft desktop monopoly with thin clients, they put their hearts into it. Like you, I got pretty sick of the speeches, grandstanding and pithy quotes, but at least they were out there mixing it up.

It ultimately didn't work (Citrix owns the thin client space and they all run Windows!), but they gave it their best shot.

Today's XP rivals consist of a dozen or more flavors of Linux clients, and the Mac. The programmers building Linux take it seriously -- but none of the companies selling (or giving away) this stuff really seem to care about desktops and laptops.

Right now the Linux PC market is fragmented worse than a champagne glass at a Jewish wedding.

Meanwhile, we've never been called by Apple asking us to review its latest machines (and the company never thanked me for a recent gushing editorial or two), nor is it telling us why Apple is such a great alternative for the enterprise. In love with its iPod success, the company barely seems to care about the Mac -- unless it is to gain a couple of home market share points.

Linux is a newer entrant and its failure is more egregious. For more than a year I tried to put a major Linux exec on the cover. Every time I had something lined up with Novell, its leader would quit or get the boot. At least Novell gave us the time of day.

Red Hat is another story. For that same year I pestered the company seeking an interview with the CEO -- with no response. I've never seen such a PR black hole. Finally, after calling his office directly, Red Hat got back to me, and in no uncertain terms told me that Linux at this point is not an alternative to Windows clients, and it isn't competing with Microsoft in this space. Shocked? So was I! Linux is an alternative, if companies like Red Hat want it to be.

A unified Linux with easy installation, application support, and a decent array of drivers could be a worthy alternative -- could. And Red Hat -- more than anyone -- could make this happen.

This is all pretty funny. Redmond magazine serves the Windows community, yet we're interested in presenting alternatives to Microsoft. But the alternatives aren't interested in presenting themselves! That's why it's easy to say they aren't serious about competing with Microsoft.

In this market, if you play dead, you are dead. What do you think about the so-called alternatives to Microsoft? Tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Apr 27, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

What if,............ for some strange reason...........no one gives a crap what redmondmag has to say.

Sat, Mar 18, 2006 Big Tom Michigan

I grew up on Dos, administered early Novell and Windows NT/2000, certified in Windows NT and 2000 as MCSE as well as Linux and Network Plus. I currently work in a Mac OS 9 and OSX environment and you know what? Based on my experience from a client desktop environment point of view he's right. Playing around with various versions of Fedora and Mandrake has convinced me that Windows XP is just that much easier to use and maintain. Trying to convince the average non-geek user that it's worth switching to Linux is a losing battle at this point. Maybe other people's experience is different. I suppose Linux desktop's might work well in tightly controlled environments with lots of well-trained and committed Linux admin personnel around. That typically involves change and for most people and most organizations change costs time and money. Getting Linux going isn't so bad it's the maintenance and upgrades that don't seem to compare to Windows when it comes to ease of use.

Mon, Mar 13, 2006 Alvaro H. Denton, TX

At home, I use both Windows XP and Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger). Before Ubutnu I was using Mandriva 10.1. I keep uwins Windows xp becuase of the Windows programs that I need to use (Money, Office, etc.) and becaus I bought those programs before I started using linux, therefore htat is the compeling reason why I still keep Windows XP at home. Having linux has help me also reduce my home computing costs, since I do not have to deal with additional windows licenses, antivirus, etc.. I definitely agree with some of the posters that Ubuntu by far is the easiest ubuntu distribution out there in the market and the support cummunity is one of the best out there.

I think that Linux is ready for mainstream use and as releases like Ubutnu get more "face time", hardware vendors will be more willing to support other OS's besides Microsoft.

Wed, Mar 8, 2006 Rodders Anonymous

I thought it was interesting. Maybe a personality behind Linux or Macs would help increase their market share
maybe they will never take MSFT over, but I can't see MSFT winning them back either

Mon, Mar 6, 2006 Mark Bench US

In the early 80's, I used to work with an Altos computer--a PC-like machine with 192KB RAM and 10MB disk. That machine was powered by MPM-II, a multi-user, multi-tasking OS. It had 3 monitors and 3 keyboards, allowing users to work with the same or with completely different programs/applications, simultaneously. It had Wordstar, Multiplan, and dBase III--all of them adopted later by the IBM PC when it came to life. All of our applications were programmed with dBase III, and we were running inventory, payroll, invoicing, accounts payable and receivable, banks, and a rudimentary production planning tool. I might be wrong, but I'm not aware that Windows is a true multitasking OS: if I try to run two or more applications using real processing power with Win XP, it doesn't run well any of them (I've tried this on a 2GHz Pentium 4). As a matter of fact, and because of that, I have two Windows computers at work, so I could run two of those applications at the same time. I have no choice at work because that's their policy, for now. However, I've tried a few equivalent scenarios with Linux on a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4, and they work just fine. Remember, I am talking about two or more applications using the same processing resources extensively (CPU, RAM, HD, etc.). Running sound and video doesn't count--that happens on the sound, and video cards. I've read that some people consider that microcomputer technology did fall behind, at least one decade, because of Microsoft. And I tend to agree with them: at a point in which PCs were at a somehow high computing-level, Microsoft came up with a very poor OS and have been reinventing the wheel (OS) since then.

"Information Technology has advanced, not because of Microsoft, but in spite of Microsoft."

IMHO, Microsoft has always been an application software company, not an operating systems company. The two need very different approaches, and it seems like just in recent years, Microsoft has started to grasp the concept. Windows is by design, a bad OS; they tried to create the OS as an application, thus, all the problems and vulnerabilities.
One thing, though, I have to agree with the author of this article: Microsoft is more of a marketing company, than it is a software company. The MS marketing organization is better than its OS organization. But then, it makes me think about something I've heard many years ago: "With the best marketing you could sell the worst of the products." That's what I believe has happened with MS for a long while. Let's hope that now with a serious alternative--Linux--MS would be forced to reduce prices and increase quality... if they can.

Mon, Mar 6, 2006 David Oregon

Good luck with your review of Ubuntu. I'm using Dapper (still in development) at home. Expect that their Firefox build is a little sluggish, but it's gotten more attention recently and the cause has been narrowed down to a specific build option, so it ought to be corrected before the final release. Feel free to visit ubuntuforums.org if you have any questions.

Fri, Mar 3, 2006 Beken One USA

Apple's market has always been about the POWERUSERS in professional multimedia,
never the hobbiest, gamer, office business, tech guru.
And the Linux, BSD people realy dont care about all that stuff....why because WE all have differnt agendas and use for it.
linux is so out there that the PR and marketing people will never get A grasp on what its realy all about.
and a so-called standarised Linux, BSD Desktop solution is not A good idea.
that would subliminaly kill off the whole idea of free to choose Window Managers.
sorry I dont need nor want GNOME or KDE, I prefer Openbox, Fluxbox or Ratpoison.
Nor do I need pretty ICONS everywhere.
and my servers dont need more than 256 colors either!!!.
give me a NCURSES based admin utility running in a Framebuffer and Im good.
people must realise that you cant cook authentic mexican food in the microwave.
nor can a Merlot be made from peanut butter.

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 GreyGeek Lincoln, NE

I purchased a new Sony VAIO in Dec 1997. Between then and May 1998 I had to reinstall Win95 FIVE TIMES. There were multiple crashes daily. I thought that Sony made the worse hardware in the world. In frustration I decided to go back to OS2 but noticed a book called "Learn Linux in 24 hours". It had a RH5.0 CD in the back. I installed it in dual boot mode. I was STUNNED to see that while running RH my Sony VAIO was a stable as a rock. In Sept of 1998 I switched to SUSE and stayed with it till SUSE 8.2, when I switched to Mandrake. In Jan of 2000 Linux became my primary boot. On my personal boxes it was my only OS. After a year with Mandrake I tried Debian and several of its clones before settling on SimplyMEPIS. My Gateway m675prr laptop running MEPIS with KDE 3.50 is the best OS I've ever run. Was I unhappy with SUSE or Mandrake? No. I tried other distros because I was curious, and it was affordable to do so. I would have no qualms about switching back to either of those distros, or even XANDROS, or PCLinuxOS, or Fedora, KNOPPIX, or Kanotix, or several others. They're all first rate and the differences are essentially theme deep. As a matter of personal preference I use KDE for my desktop.

As a professional programmer I've used every Windows OS since Win 3.1 and develop QT based software inhouse on a W2K box. I am well aware of Windows current stability and security issues.

But, I've come to expect, and I've never been disappointed with, the stability, speed, security and affordability of Linux and FOSS in general. While I could use the Linux OS without giving it economical support, since 1998 I have purchased 22 SUSE boxed sets, several Mandrake releases, and my MEPIS OS. Despite the number of Linux purchases I calculated that my total OS and software costs using FOSS are about one 5th the cost I would have spent on Windows and its 3rd party apps during the same time period.

Windows won't go away in many environments because there are important Windows dependent applications that have no counterpart in Linux, and the opposite is also true. However, Windows importance will become an inverse relationship to its rising costs and continued lack of security and stability. It is not clear that VISTA will change that trend, especially since new and expensive hardware purchases are required to run the full power of VISTA and lacking those hardware upgrades VISTA becomes an unnecessary but expensive XP upgrade. Even now we are hard at work replacing legacy inhouse VFP apps with cross platform replacements that eliminates our dependency on Microsoft software, especially the OS.

It's no accident that 70% of the Internet is powered by FOSS and that percentage is gradually growing at the expense of Microsoft software. It is also no accident that 99.999999...% of all viruses, trojans and other malware comes from and targets PCs running Windows software. And, while a well administered Windows box can be kept relatively secure, there is a reason why XP keeps about 6GB of HD space containing hidden OS files in order to silently reinstall corrupted or deleted apps following malfunctions of Windows. If Windows was stable those hidden files wouldn't be necessary. It is also no accident that an MSCE's mantra is "reboot, rebuild, or reinstall", which is what they spend 90% of their time doing. That's not "administering". Windows users reboot so often they, like smokers lighting up a fresh cig, loose track of how many times they actually do it. This is especially the case if their PC has become "owned" and they remain blissfully unaware, until their ISP blocks their account because of the spam and viruses their box has been spewing out onto the Internet.

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 gnumber9 USA

It's called Collaboration not competition! The word “competition” isn't used very much in open source. The KDE and GNOME guys seem to get involved a bit, but what's a game among friends?

The old ways of thinking are being replaced by new and innovative methods to ignite ideas and abilities and make them freely available. By holding on to stone age sticks for fire and follow obsolete quid pro quo, we work against innovation and promote fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Your going to have to get involved to understand why. Microsoft, who cares about Microsoft! Microsoft is not in my world. CEO, who is the CEO of Debian? Yet Debian is the largest Linux distribution available.

I know this is probably not making any sense to the author of the article, so to him I say “Read The Fine Manual”.

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 Keith Ward Anonymous

Let me clear up what may be some confusion about the mission of Redmond magazine. We cover Microsoft, both its technologies and its business. Covering Microsoft also means covering its competition and the threats to its position. That's one reason we cover Linux, Apple, Firefox, etc. The other reason is that most shops out there are heterogeneous, so giving information on using, for instance, Red Hat Directory Services and how it integrates with Active Directory (from our February issue) is of great value to our readers.

Keith Ward
Editor
Redmond magazine

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 Greg Iowa

Doug. If you'd like to test drive an excellent Linux desktop, I'd recommend you give PCLinuxOS a spin. It comes in the form of a 'live cd,' rurnning straight off the CD ROM drive. It's positively one of the easiest flavors of Linux I've seen for the curious Windows user.

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 Doug Barney Anonymous

Mr. Skoll, can you email me at dbarney@redmondmag.com? I'm interested in learning more about your shop!

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 Joe Tamai Toronto, Canada

I've tried all the different distros and the one I've settled on at least for now, is PCLinuxOS. It is very close in appearance and feel to XP, ut more importantly, it detected every bit of hardware on my machine and everything just worked. My machine is a desktop so I don't know if it is as good on a laptop. Even the cheapo TV card was detected and when I clicked on the play TV icon it came up with no adjustments necessary. The TV is much cleared on Linux than on XP as well and the inmage much more stable. In XP any time you work on anything else the TV freezes momentarily, which shows that Linux is far superior at multitasking since that never happens.

This is a one CD download and installs in less than an hour. Mine took abot 20 minutes but my machine is quite new and powerful. That said it has integreated PCI Express geraphics and this also worked seamlessly.

Best Linux distro I've used in 8 years of using Linux.

I also have XP, Kanotix 64 (64 bit) and Suse 10 on the same AMD 64 machine.

Thu, Mar 2, 2006 joe f. germany

You're feeling the same thing the traditional IT market guys (headed by MS and SCO) must feel when they think about competing against Linux. It's an entirely different paradigm. The companies you're used to dealing with -- MS and its ecosystem -- are traditional marketing machines. Linux is a cloud. It's analogous to the difference between brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping. I buy half my stuff -- computer parts, shampoo, vitamins -- from guys with no physical storefront at all. Same with my software (and yes, I pay, even though I don't have to).

IBM gets it, Novell gets it, and maybe HP and some others. SCO gets it, which is why they're fighting it in court and not in the market (well, not effectively in the market, at any rate).

So go after Shuttleworth from Ubuntu, who is on a mission, and forget Red Hat, which appears to be playing some kind of don't-scare-the-straights game (and working it, BTW). I doubt Patrick Volkerding (maintainer of Slackware, the longest-running Linux distro) would want to represent Linux, but he's been making a living off Linux for a while. And that's another thing: I think many Linux guys will balk at wanting to be the one "representing" Linux. They're nice guys, geeks and not paid leadership presences (CEOs) or PR hacks.

As for the distro you're hoping for, I second the emotion of the people who pointed you toward Ubuntu and Kubuntu. It's an excellent distro I'm about to put on my 4-year-old's first computer in the form of Edubuntu. I use Slackware, but she's not ready for the command line just yet. Or check out Vector, which has been doing for Slackware what Ubuntu is doing for Debian. Or the excellent Mepis. Warren Woodford would probably make an excellent interview. Those guys are probably more the face of Linux than the CEO of Red Hat, anyway.

And watch the cloud. Linux will advance in niches here and there, replacing Windows 98 and ME and 2000 on perfectly good machines that won't run Vista, on the machines of the people tired of malware, and those of anybody who actually reads that EULA.

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Frank Seattle

Microsoft? Don't they make that legacy OS for gaming? I havn't had to deal with them at home or at work since my last vDash position. Are they making a comeback in the computer world or something?

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 David F. Skoll Ottawa, Canada

You miss the point about desktop Linux. Just because you can't get executives to talk to you doesn't mean desktop Linux is stalling. We use Debian for all our technical staff, and Ubuntu for all the non-technical staff.

We have no (repeat, no) Microsoft software in our entire organization, and we like it just fine that way.

One last comment: What you call "fragmentation" we old-fashioned folks like to call "choice". Would you say that the automobile market is "fragmented" because it's not controlled by a monopoly?

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Brian USA

Maybe they just don't like you? Seriously, do you really think your readers want to hear about Linux and MacOS in your magazine or on your website? I think that if they were interested in those subjects they would go elsewhere.

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Quazar Panama City, Panama

Well. First of all, sorry for my bad english, but as you can see, I come from a spanish speaking languaje country. But, this can't stop me to write out my opinion, I guess. My first machine was an Intel 8088 PC, with 640 KB RAM, 40MB hard disk, with a monochromatic monitor, Hercules Video Card and MS-DOS 3.1. After that, I tried Win 3.1, Win 95, 98 .... until Win XP. Back in 2002 I heard something about Linux, a "new" operating system developed by geeks from all over the world, and I thought, let's try it! I started with a dual boot partition, and now I have installed SuSE Linux 9.3 Pro. I almost forgot XP, I don't have to worry about viruses, spyware, "BSOD", crashes, etc and now I am a happy Linux user. As Lars told us before, XP is my second choice (when I remember it).

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Rapidweather USA

Doug, try some of the livecd linux distros. That way, you will have a desktop in a few minutes without installing linux.
I have a Knoppix remaster, details and screenshots at rapidweather.com
Also, check out the Getting Started Guide there.
I run mine from a hard drive partition, having copied it there at bootup, takes only a few minutes longer, frees up the cdrom drive and is faster than running off the cd. Still need to start up with the cd for a few seconds, then it continues from the hard drive.
Right now I am using the Flock web browser, built in to the cd, and dial-up internet access. Built in firewall, too. I tried Ubuntu, it takes too long to boot up, and does not have the features I have in mine. I use mine on a 128 MB ram machine all the time, looks good, and runs just fine on that older hardware.

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Orv Simi Valley

It's almost there - weak points are installation of programs, and mainstream games.
If you want to play, compare Ubuntu to Kubuntu. You'll get to compare GNOME to KDE. Let us know what you think of them.

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Lance Canada

Odd. I've been waiting for the Windows desktop to mature.

Cheers,
lance

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Doug Barney Anonymous

I hear good things about Ubuntu, I think I'll give it a try on on of my old PCs. I enjoy all this feedback, and am waiting for desktop Linux to really mature.

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Brian Michigan

I agree with your critic of Red Hat, but Red Hat is going after the desktop market. I think that Ubuntu, SUSE(Novell), Linspire, and Xandros are the biggest desktop linux companies.

Ubuntu is the linux version MS Windows should give a try. I switched my non technical parents to Ubuntu because of all the virus and spyware problems they had. The amount of help I have had to give them dropped to 1/4 as many problems.

Mark Shuttleworth gives interviews. I challege Redmond Magazine to write an article about Ubuntu Linux!

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Lars Stockholm, Sweden

After converting to Linux and having used SuSE since '01 ('02 at work), I consider XP an alternative.

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

Since OpenSource projects are very often by no means companies, the things they don't have or can afford is marketing money and marketing time.

Then: if a Linuxmag asked Steve Ballmer for an interview, would they succeed? So if Redmondmag asks the CEO of RedHat to give an inverview ... maybe you'd like to ask their PR department for an interview and see what you get? This would really help to get your ego adjusted to the right size I guess ...

Wed, Mar 1, 2006 Gerald Canada

Hi Doug;

Unfortunately, Red Hat has been that way for a while, they focus only on enterprise customers. I am an avid Fedora Linux (Red Hat's sponsored community distro) user but it is not user friendly enough for the average home user market and because it is bleeding edge there are some instabilities that would frustrate a novice user.

The person you should try and contact is Mark Shuttle worth at www.canonical.com and www.ubuntu.com. By far Ubuntu is the most user friendly distro I have encountered. I know that Xandros and Linspire are also really good but they charge money for their distros whereas Ubuntu is 100% free to download.

Any of my friends who have been interested in trying Linux, I usually offer to install Ubuntu for them. Other than a few twitches getting the MS proprietary video codecs there isn't much extra that needs to be done to get a home user up and running.

Sincerely,
Gerald from Canada

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 Jason New York

If I didn't check the web page a couple of times, I would think I had accidentally landed on a mac user website and Doug Barney had just criticized the all mighty mac, from the comments I just read above. The comments from the people who previously replied go a long way to show what's wrong with many open source gurus and linux/unix evangelists. Tunnel Vision. Making them raise their heads from their monitors to look around and see what's going on around them is like pulling teeth. They never see the big picture.

Make no mistake, I am a big open source fan. And thankfully, most opensource people are not like that. If I can have it in open source instead of proprietary I would prefer it. But there's a lot of sense in what Doug Barney mentioned in his article. Whether you like it or not this is a competitive industry and unless companies like Red Hat and Suse want the bulk of their users to remain a SMALL part of the tech industry who speak and think geek, then they have to put themselves out there as an alternative. Openoffice can be the best alternative/free office software out there. If people (Insert My boss, my mom, my next door neighbor) don't see why they should switch, or even worse, that there is an alternative, it won't get anywhere. The only opensource projects that have been taken seriously are those that take themselves seriously.

Thankfully, from their recent efforts, it seems like they get the point. If they didn't, Eclipse wouldn't be where it is today. Red Hat, Opensuse or even Firefox (remember the Firefox Ad campaign, anyone?) which all the previous commenters sang about wouldn't have gotten anywhere.
The long and short of it is this. Your favorite open source software/alternative platform may be the best thing since sliced bread, but if I don't know about it, my boss doesn't know about it or even that he should care about it and all I ever see everyday is Microsoft, because Microsoft is doing everything my software company is supposed to be doing, it wont matter one lousy bit.

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

"Redmond magazine serves the Windows community, yet we're interested in presenting alternatives to Microsoft."
How very condescending of you.
You: "Hey, Bill, check out this new version of Linux."
Bill: "Cool. Will you install it on my desktop?"
Gimme a break.

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 James Randall Philedelphia, PA

What do I think about these "so called" alternatives? Quite a bit actually, we've switched to Linux and it works well for us.

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

The Tortoise and the Hare comes to mind.

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

Nice excuse for not writing an interesting article.

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 Mark Bench US

I don't know what to make out of this article. It seems that Mr. Barney really believes he is a big critic on IT (just because he is in a Windows publication?), and those guys--who have more important things to
do (like offering better software alternatives) than talking to journalists like him--should drop whatever they're doing just to talk to him? LOL! Oh, please, grow up! He just sounds like a little kid whining about things he doesn't like.
Let me tell you that his paradigm is already obsolete. He is still thinking about Linux in Windows terms. He probably knows a lot about Windows, but if he doesn't change his mindset, he'll never understand what Linux is all about.
Have you seen how Firefox is displacing Internet "Exposer"? Slowly, but surely... those are the ways of the open source. Don't expect to see a big advertising campaign (at least not yet). Open source (and Linux) make sense, to the point that your master "Bully" Gates decided to make war to Linux (were he scared or something?), but the reality is that the more noise Microsoft makes about Linux, the more people will know about Linux. That's the way it started, wasn't it?

He said "If they are trying to compete with Microsoft, we wouldn't know." I don't think it's about competing in commercial or Microsoft terms, is more about options and alternatives, about freedom of choice about what to use, and when to do it. It's not about being on Microsoft's schedule for upgrades, but on your own schedule and according to your budget and needs. For what I need and want, Microsoft products are not even options for me anymore. I grew tired of all the nuisances associated with Microsoft products, and since I started using Linux about two years ago, all those nuisances are history. Switching to Linux after 20+ years of MS-DOS and Windows was a lot easier than going through all the pain, not just of learning the Microsoft stuff, but of dealing with all the crashes, bugs, inconsistencies, vulnerabilities, etc., etc., etc. I don't have that with Linux. I started with SUSE 8.2, and now I'm running Linux on four PCs at home (SUSE 8.2, 9.2, and 10.0). Two of those machines are dual boot with Windows just because of very specific applications (Photoshop for my kids and First Choice for the missus) while everything else is open source (OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.). In other words, the two Windows machines, the only Microsoft products they have is Windows--nothing else.

What you should do is embracing it... assume there is no other OS in existence... enjoy it for what it is, without making comparisons... then, and only then, you will be able to fully appreciate what the Linux community has put into your hands... and you will like it!

Linux, the future of computing, today.

Tue, Feb 28, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

VMWARE Platform no OS needed.

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