In a Vista World, I’m Dreaming of Gubuntu

    February 8, 2007

The blogosphere has been singing both positive and negative tunes about Microsoft’s latest offering in its long line of operating systems. Vista has been the talk of the town as of late, but there are still some of us who envision a world where more than one platform can thrive in the OS marketplace.

You can hardly browse technology news these days without coming across some mention of Windows Vista. New features, application compatibility, and even zero day exploits have dominated the headlines since the product’s consumer launch late last month. Heck, there were even concerns that the entirety of Korea might be shut down due to incompatibility issues with the new operating system.

In fact, the term "operating system" pretty much only inspires thoughts of Windows. Ever since I can remember getting my first computer in 1993, a P75 with a whopping 8MB of RAM and 100MB hard disk, Microsoft’s dominance in the OS market has gone virtually unchallenged.

Recent signs have given me hope, however, that this trend could be coming to an end in the not-too-distant future.

Just as it has is the OS realm, Microsoft has also exerted an overpowering presence in the business sector, particularly with its Office Suite. A recent push from Google, however, has analysts buzzing about whether or not Google Docs & Spreadsheets can actually challenge Office for market share.

The significance, however, shouldn’t be measured just in the numbers. The mere fact that a product is emerging that experts thing even has a chance of competing with Microsoft is the most important element of the conversation.

It’s that same mentality which inspires me to hope (and believe) that Google isn’t that far remove from attempting to challenge Windows for operating system superiority.

I know, I know; it’s a played out bit of speculation. The rumor mill has been churning for the past year with prognostication that Google is on the cusp of releasing an open-source alternative to Windows. It’s been dissected, analyzed, and pretty much beaten to death by the blogosphere at large, so I understand if yet more talk about the subject might seem a bit tired and played out.

I’m not going to debate the fine points, however. I won’t give you my top ten reasons why Google will team with the makers of Ubuntu to release a Linux distribution (Title: Gubutnu) within the next twelve months. Those are predictions I simply don’t have the information or the desire to make right now.

Instead, I want to delve into the higher, more conceptual end of the discussion for a little while, if you’ll indulge me.

I believe that competition drives innovation. This is one of the fundamental concepts that drives the machine of capitalism onward, and has been something sorely lacking in the OS marketplace. I would submit that most of us don’t think about this when using our respective computers, we just want everything to function properly so we can go about surfing the web, playing games, or whatever else our little hearts desire.

The truth is, however, that all of our computer activities are mostly subjugated to the functionality of the operating system of our machines. If you play World of Warcraft, you’re pretty much stuck with Windows (or OS-X for Mac users). Blizzard has announced no plans to develop a Linux friendly version of the game, although data suggests that more people are switching to the open source operating platform.

So in essence, you’re relegated to choosing whether or not to play a game based on whether it’s supported by Windows. Shouldn’t it be the other way around; should I be able to choose which operating system I use based on whether or not it supports the activities in which I want to take part?

Perhaps the argument is not that simple, but regardless one has to admit that hardware and software developers rarely take into account any kind of product support other than what is offered to Windows users. It’s the OS that everyone uses anyway, right?

Until now, that’s essentially been the case. With the negativity surrounding Vista’s functionality, however, the door is wide open for competitors such as Linux to grab a piece of the OS pie. A partnership with Google, a company already positioning itself as a competitor to Microsoft in other arenas, would go a long way toward accomplishing this type of competitive utopia.

Even still, almost all my friends are really eager to upgrade to Vista.

As for me, I’m holding out for Gubuntu.

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