Does Windows 8 Pose a Threat to Linux?

Well it was a difficult week for those of us here in the Linux blogosphere last week, what with all the din emanating from the Windows territories to the south.

Drums, cymbals and fanfare of every sort effectively drowned out every conversation we tried to have here in these parts, as did all the frantic chanting. It was a relief when the week finally wound down and we could all begin speaking at normal volumes again.

Woe betide those with noisy neighbors!

A Remarkable Resemblance

Of course, the cause of all the partying and excitement in Windows-land was none other than Windows 8, the next generation of Microsoft’s widespread PC platform. In a very uncharacteristic and — it must be noted — Linuxy fashion, Microsoft actually debuted an early version of the software for all to see.

One would have to have been living under a proverbial rock to have missed the feverish press coverage that ensued; one would have to have had exceptionally sharp hearing, however, *not* to have missed what Linux bloggers were saying.

Will Windows 8 and its remarkably Unity-like “Metro” interface have any effect on Linux? That’s what Linux Girl set out to learn.

‘The Whole World Has Gone Mad’

“I feel like the whole world has gone mad,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

“MS is now changing everything to chase a small but trendy part of the market, and they will be left with a ton of cruft and a bunch of pissed off Silverlight developers once the fad passes,” Mack explained.

“I actually own a tablet (work provided), and I’m still not quite sure what exactly it’s for or why everyone goes nuts about them,” he added.

“All I’m sure about is that Ubuntu will probably grow yet another new interface soon,” chimed in Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza.

‘It’s Too Little, Too Late’

“They better hope Nintendo doesn’t sue them,” warned Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “It’s the same interface as the Wii, except with the Wii you don’t get smudges on the screen.”

As for whether it will affect Linux, “I don’t know, but I think it’s too little, too late for where it really counts: trying to give Microsoft a toe-hold on mobile devices,” Hudson asserted. “Nobody’s going to buy it based on, ‘I want a seamless experience across all my devices’ — users have already been weaned from that.

“Windows lock-in, except on the desktop, is dead, and Windows 8 isn’t going to change that,” she concluded. “Linux+Android will continue to be No. 1 and Apple IOS No. 2 in mobile. The question is, can Microsoft even get enough sales to become a somewhat irrelevant No. 3?”

‘They Are Changing Too Much’

Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland said he hopes the user interface changes in Windows 8 “do to Windows what Unity/Gnome 3 did to their users — send them searching for alternatives in droves,” he told Linux Girl.

“Unity and Gnome 3 drove many Linux users to XFCE and Enlightenment (among other desktops); hopefully Windows 8 will drive some Windows user to finally give Linux a go,” Hoogland added. “It can’t hurt us, to say the least.”

Indeed, “Lose ‘8’ looks to me to be another Vista,” opined blogger Robert Pogson. “They are changing too much to keep it all straight.”

‘Increased Complexity Always Loses’

Without compatibility with all legacy apps, “it’s Phoney ‘7’ all over again,” Pogson asserted. “OEMs may be fooled, but consumers will not be. Every app on the planet for that other OS is not about to be rewritten for ‘8’ on ARM.”

Meanwhile, “Android/Linux will likely be available on x86 a year or more before ‘8’ is released on ARM,” he added. “With netbooks, M$ was able to overcome a few tens of millions of GNU/Linux installed base, but they will have no chance against hundreds of millions of Android/Linux smart thingies and x86.”

All in all, then, Windows 8 “is M$ blinking, unable to decide whether ‘Classic’ or ‘New’ is the way to go,” Pogson said.

“Increased complexity always loses against a lean, mean operating system,” he concluded. “Folks who want to get away from XP before it crashes and burns and folks who want ARMed hardware or low-powered x86 or thin clients have no better option than GNU/Linux or Android/Linux.”

‘The Highest Form of Flattery’

Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet didn’t see any impact on Linux at all.

“It isn’t Windows that hinders Linux adoption; it is the fact that too many in the community are in love with the CLI and refuse to wake up and smell the iPhone,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, saw it differently.

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” Travers pointed out. “It means Microsoft is taking Linux seriously on the desktop. This is very, very good news — for all Microsoft saying we are copying proprietary software, it is rewarding to see them copy us.”

‘This Will Only Help Linux’

Of course, “people don’t use Linux because it has a better desktop; we use it because of the open development environment and the amazing community, and because as consultants we own our own means of production,” Travers added. “We have the right to create new things using the software and thus add value without paying upstream royalties or agreeing to restrictive contracts.”

So, “in the end this will only help Linux,” Travers concluded, “by making it easier for us to create systems which are more familiar to Windows users.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


  • So you go into store to buy a laptop based on specs and you want to run Linux instead of Windoze… you try to uninstall Windoze 8 and install Linux and you can’t do it and you can’t reinstall Windoze…that’s okay I’ll return it to the store…no you won’t and the store will not rtv or return to vendor your laptop… you are stuck with a computer that won’t run and you can only use it for a door jam…

  • There were several reasons I moved to Linux. Number one, I was fed up with all the Windows exploits, constant antivirus updates, and constant cleaning of malware.

    I also wanted to get back to my old DOS days, when I controlled the computer, rather than some secretive registry system.

    And, I wanted a little bit of the "geek" that goes along with Linux.

    The hype about "free" sold me too.

    But, that environment and community? That’s not something that is readily apparent from the outside. Nor is that what keeps me on Linux. Sorry, that sounds like so much double talk, like we get from congress critters.

    Besides – no one wants to "join a community" to use a computer! That’s just silly.

    • It is THAT, that attitude right there, that dooms Linux on the desktop. the naive "all the world wants to be programmers" crazy talk and worse crazy actions. Do you see people buying iPhone because they want to program the thing? Does ANYONE think Joe Carpenter and Sally check out girl buy their desktops so they can program them? NO of course not!

      Yet the entire attitude of the Linux community is "We are gonna make you program and learn to like bash if it kills us!" and you know what? IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. you have better odds of bringing back disco and bell bottoms than getting the world to embrace the mess that is CLI again.

      A Linux server admin told me once the perfect analogy which explains beyond anything I could write why CLI deserved to die: " If you put a server job for a WinServer Admin and a Linux admin where both have done the job a million times? The Linux guy will win. if you give them both a job neither has EVER done? Before the Linux guy is even done reading howtos and man pages the windows guy will be clocked out and having coffee with his friends".

      And it is THAT, that right there, that will doom Linux. Nobody wants to learn dozens of bash commands! NOBODY WANTS TO WORK IN CLI anymore, the very few that do? you already have them. There is ZERO GROWTH in CLI, its dead as 8-tracks.

      A BIG BIG day is coming Linux guys, its probably your last chance for quite a few years. in 2014 hundreds of millions of XP boxes go EOL. Will Linux get a shot at all those machines? Not with the "Linux is for programmers!" attitude it won’t. Your OS just isn’t user friendly, not at all. Sure it looks nice but if they need to plug in a scanner, have a driver issue, if ANYTHING goes wrong? all you can offer them is CLI, which is uberfail.

      The choice is yours. You can get the users, which will give you the drivers, the software companies respecting you and making Linux versions of their software, and get all that hardware support so everything on the shelves at Walmart "just works" or you can keep up with the fantasy that you can make grandma into a hacker and stay exactly where you are now while everyone passes you by. the choice? up to you.

      • hairyfeet uses troll-technology rule 42(b), "When all else fails take what others write out of context and claim victory."

        Travers was writing as a developer. He was stating why he used GNU/Linux.


        So, "in the end this will only help Linux," Travers concluded, "by making it easier for us to create systems which are more familiar to Windows users."

        Many millions of users of GNU/Linux never use CLI.

        M$, for good or ill has educated hundreds of millions of users in the "desktop" paradigm. It works for people. M$ is unlikely to be able to put that genie back in the bottle and GNU/Linux can give consumers what they want, a familiar GUI.

        • Is it cherry? For those that don’t know old Pogson is famous for having the Linux disease called "Voldemort" in that he will never say Microsoft, or even MSFT, it is always "That other OS" like secret M$ ninjas are coming to raid his basement. A totally insane person calling me a troll? that’s funny!

          Riddle me this Pogson: why do your numbers STILL suck? they sucked 4 years ago, they suck now, you’re flatline, DOA. Take netstats, take Google trends, take any measure you want and you’ll see YOU ARE GOING NOWHERE.

          I’ll tell you why it is the same place as your Voldemort disease…it is the simple fact that YOU DO NOT LISTEN and instead have this completely insane idea that you can FORCE people to do things YOUR way! Well the market has spoken pal, and the word is consumers in 50 foot flaming neon. do you see ANY other OS with a terminal on the desktop? any OS with more than 1% that is? Nope, of course not.

          Accept it or not but disco is dead daddy-o, and terminals went out with tie dyed and bell bottoms. you’d actually have better luck bring back tie dye and bell bottoms as people actually enjoyed those. The only people who enjoy sitting around reading man pages so they can copypasta into a terminal and pretend they are hackers is geeks that have nothing better to do. Numbers don’t lie friend, and unless you change you can enjoy your teeny tiny niche.

          Oh and don’t even think about bringing up android, even RMS says that ain’t open source as Google no longer releases source, it is just another iPhone. Kinda sad the closest thing you had to win turned out to be a TiVo trick huh? You COULD have taken that market, you COULD have gained share. but instead you foolishly tried to force the world to go back to 1979 and they all laughed and walked away. Wake up and smell the iPad pogson, its all GUIs all the way down.

  • "people don’t use Linux because it has a better desktop; we use it because of the open development environment and the amazing community, and because as consultants we own our own means of production,"

    With that mentality, I’m not sure Linux will ever be mainstream. I’m a heavy Ubuntu administrator and unless you rethink why a user would want to use Linux, it is doomed.

    A parity, "Poeple buy our bird houses because we make our own bird houses and the bird house community is awesome".

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