Perfect Storm for Microsoft, Perfect Wave for Linux

By Tom Ledford | The Practical Computer 


2010 Mavericks Surfing Competition. - Wikimedia Commons

Ok. I'm sorry about the melodramatic headline. It's easy to laugh at the idea of Microsoft in trouble. After all, they are entrenched in the enterprise and corporate world. And they have billions and billions in cash.

I'm not betting against them to weather the storm, but...

other than Xbox, Microsoft hasn't appealed to consumers. Although it should be familiar technology from where many work, there is no other compelling reason for them to favour Windows phones or tablets.

With the culture of many businesses trending toward the always connected employee, you would think that the logical mobile platform to connect to the office, would be Windows. But the iPhone, iPad and Android are everywhere, and Windows mobile is virtually nowhere. 


Employees that want to stay connected to work found they can choose their own devices and connect to work themselves. Or if not, they can let their employer worry about mobile connectivity. Indeed, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement has overwhelmed many business's IT and legal departments.

Leap Frog 2.0

Microsoft has shot themselves in the foot more than once, and that hasn't exactly been great for customer confidence. With Vista, and now Windows 8, Microsoft has disrupted their customers' adoption of newer technology to the point where leapfrogging over every other version of Windows is expected now.

Two out of four major new Windows versions were duds out of the starting gate. The other two, Windows XP and Windows 7, are the most popular desktop computer operating systems ever. Over 25% of the worlds desktops and laptops run Windows XP, and this is after Microsoft's brilliant idea to end XP support! I might understand better if their new version of Windows was an improvement over Windows 7 (arguably Microsoft's best ever OS).

It's A Global Market

China, the world's largest market for computers has banned Windows 8 on all their government computers. Not only have they banned Windows 8, but they have named Ubuntu Linux as their official OS.  Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu have announced that they will be officially affiliated with the Chinese government to bring a new Ubuntu based OS to the Chinese population. 

China Bans Windows 8 From Use In Government - OMG! Ubuntu
Ubuntu To Become The Official OS Of China - OMG! Ubuntu

Catching the wave

Linux has been around since 1991, but in the beginning it was difficult to install and configure. It was used mostly for embedded systems like phones, routers and video game consoles. Linux is still used in embedded systems. In fact it may be the most used operating system ever. It became very popular for running Apache, a free, open source web server. Today Apache is the most used web server on the Internet. 

As computer users have become more and more comfortable with technology, Linux has become more and more easy to use. Now, anyone can install Linux. The latest Linux desktops (the graphical user interfaces) are as easy to use as Windows. Linux has a huge community of users, and the resources for training, help and support are plentiful.

Today, Linux has just about everything that the average user and technology professional needs. It comes with a web server, file server, database server, email server, application server, PHP server, DNS, FTP, SFTP FTPS, SSH RDP, Firewall, router, Anti-virus, remote management, desktop, office applications suites, and graphics software. No wonder its popularity has exploded!



Which Linux is right for you?


There are several different versions or distributions (or "distros" for the tech hipsters). All of them share a common base. Some offer different levels of support and are more geared toward business and some are more suited for the everyday user. It can get a little confusing, but if you are a typical user, there are only two Linux distros that I would recommend - Linux Mint and Ubuntu.


Linux may not be right for you at all. Although there are comparable programs for most Windows applications, you may need to run specific Windows apps that aren't available for Linux, e.g. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Visual Studio. I still have to rely on Windows for those, myself.


Still, I am surprised at how much I can do with Linux. I can use Microsoft's Office Online, including Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook. I can use Google Apps, and stream Netflix movies. Just about anything you use with an Internet browser, you can use in Linux!


Linux Mint


Linux Mint is probably the easiest to use and will be the most familiar to Windows users. Mint is based on Ubuntu, but it has added more user friendly functionality. You can choose between two desktops when you install Mint - the MATE desktop or the Cinnamon desktop. Other desktops can be installed later, but I wouldn't recommend it for beginners. Cinnamon can be configured to be the most Windows like.

Ubuntu 


Ubuntu is also an excellent OS. It's Unity desktop is easy to use, and it is the one Linux that can run on smartphones, tablets, desktops and servers. Ubuntu can even run on Android devices. How cool is that?

Ubuntu for Android



So as you can see, Linux's time has come. It is a mature and robust operating system capable of meeting the needs of many everyday computer users.  It is riding a wave of popularity that will encourage the Linux developer community to add even more features and functionality. If you would like to learn more about Linux, or just dive in and swim, here are some resources you may find helpful:


Linux Mint

Ubuntu
Open Source and Linux Forums
TechMint - Linux Howto's Guide
Ask Ubuntu




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