Linux on Desktops

The WSJ has a rather negative article on Linux penetration in desktops. Apparently Torvalds’ father and sister use Windows.  Far more interesting is the accompanying interview with Torvalds where he points out that desktops simply do not matter any more.

I suspect Vista is doing well enough — I think the problems with it are more indicative of the maturing market than anything else. The desktop market in general simply has a very high inertia, and while a Microsoft update obviously ends up having a lot of the advantages of that inertia, I think Microsoft is also noticing that the inertia can work against them.

So I don’t think Vista will “fail” or anything like that. But if I was Microsoft, I’d realize that this whole “let’s redesign everything” mentality just doesn’t work in a maturing market. And we may not be there yet, but the whole operating system thing is definitely turning into a commodity, not a “bells and whistles” kind of thing.

I think that some time soon, Microsoft will collapse under the burden of keeping its products compatible with previous versions and keeping all its products compatible with one another.  The loose couplings that are the hallmark of  OS software used to be a pain so far, but will soon prove an advantage.

17 thoughts on “Linux on Desktops

  1. I think that some time soon, Microsoft will collapse under the burden of keeping its products compatible with previous versions and keeping all its products compatible with one another

    Any timeline for this collapse? The stock went up 10% this quarter. Are you shorting?

    The loose couplings that are the hallmark of OS software used to be a pain so far, but will soon prove an advantage.

    What does this mean?

  2. @Random:
    “sometime soon” — this could coincide with the next big version of Windows, if MSFT does not alter its ways and provide incremental value-adds to its software.

    I think Linus Torvalds has it 100% right about the software market. But not sure if Linux can be the replacement.

    I think IE7 and Firefox 2 aftermath is a good example where “lets redesign everything” has failed. If not for the inertia factor, I would deem IE7 a failure.

  3. Random, thinking through it, I would qualify my statement in some way, but I am not sure how. It is quite clear that Microsoft’s latest products are not turning out to be the moneyspinners they used to be. Microsoft as a company may still survive as IBM has done, but with a completely different focus.

    “loosely coupled”: I will explain later.

  4. I puzzled over the “loosely coupled” for about twenty minutes, reread the interview thrice and still, for the life of me, cannot decrypt this post.
    I must be really stupid.

  5. Methinks it should be “Open source”, not “Loose Coupling”,

    Though one can argue that OS can work only with Loose Coupling. But both the paradigms address different issues.

  6. If I had said that “Open source is the hallmark of OS software” instead of “loose couplings that are the hallmark of OS software ” as I wrote earlier, it would have seemed slightly ridiculous.

  7. Point taken. Although I don’t know why should loose couplings be pain to end-user (I assume you refer to end-user). Loose couplings are great !

  8. This is where I explain that I had used loose coupling a little loosely. Loose coupling as a design philosophy is great, of course. But I referred to the tendency of OS software to be developed by small teams in small bits. From a normal user’s point of view, unless everything is available in the form of a single-click install, the software is useless. Now, of course, people have packaged the loose bits nicely and distributed them. But till it was available, OSS was unusable for normal users in a way developers would typically not understand.

  9. It is quite clear that Microsoft’s latest products are not turning out to be the moneyspinners they used to be.

    Microsoft is making more money than ever before. As for new products, MS has always taken time to grab a share. Windows 3.x is still the classic example.


    Microsoft as a company may still survive as IBM has done, but with a completely different focus.

    Do you think Microsoft will turn itself into a consulting company? When? Why?

    The loose couplings that are the hallmark of OS software used to be a pain so far, but will soon prove an advantage.

    This statement still doesn’t make sense vis-a-vis Microsoft collapsing under itself. Do you mean the loosely coupled software packages model of a Linux distribution will help it gain ascendancy over Windows on the desktop?

  10. Well, time will tell. But Windows 3.x is not a good analogy. 3.x was a new product trying to break into an expanding market. Vista is a product trying to sell in a maturing market with pretensions of newness.

    I think that Microsoft is trying to change itself from a technology company to a consumer products company, if you know what I mean. It might well succeed.

  11. As for “Classic” – it is quite complicated. I have given the reasoning below, but feel free to skip it if your head hurts (mine does)

    See, I have a set of readers who come to http://blog.ravikiran.com. Because they are my readers, I can assume that they are interested in what I write, and they either share, or do not mind, some of the idiosyncratic things I am interested in. Call them my “classic” readers.

    I have for long wanted to create two sub-blogs at http://personal.ravikiran.com and http://tech.ravikiran.com. If I succeed in creating and sustaining a readership for those, I will have two sets of readers who may not be interested in my “classic” posts. But my “classic” readers will still be interested in, or at least will not mind, the posts on the other two blogs.

    So I wanted a system that gives my readers the flexibility to read all three blogs in one syndication if they wish, or subscribe to the one they are interested in if they don’t. I also wanted to be able to make a post to multiple blogs if I wish without physically cross-posting.

    My solution is to use WordPress categories. WordPress has a neat feature where you can have different themes for different categories, which will give the impression of different blogs. All posts that I make go into one or more of three categories (classic, personal, tech)

    As you can see, the whole thing isn’t done yet, because I am slightly stretched… Also, I had relaunched this blog in August after a long hiatus, so I realised that I need to rebuild my readership before I branch out. And yes, this post should have been in tech. I just changed that. Also the categories should really have been hidden because there is no reason to display them to the reader in every post. I will get around to doing that some day.

  12. The Vista pricing strategy indicates that MSFT has reached a saturation point w.r.t Operating Systems. OS probably can be developed further but probably not on a business model that can made huge amounts of money for the corporation. They are trying other initiatives like their investment in Facebook (upstaged by Google yesterday). I think they should simply return some of the money they are sitting on.

    I don’t think we will ever reach the stage where the network as the OS will be widely accepted. But google has some good strategies. Maybe Google can bring usability to Linux haha….

    Money quote:
    “For example, I think Microsoft used to actually care about trying to help the consumer. I may not think that they did wonderful technology, but I think they really did try to serve their customers. But look at their [digital rights management] and their “Genuine Windows Advantage” — they’re not trying to serve their customers any more in their products; they are adding features that are actively bad for users, because they probably feel like they aren’t even competing any more.”

  13. Well, time will tell. But Windows 3.x is not a good analogy. 3.x was a new product trying to break into an expanding market.

    No. Windows 3.x was the third version of Windows.

    Vista is a product trying to sell in a maturing market with pretensions of newness.

    Is a maturing market one that makes no further purchases?

    This is perhaps what you refer to as pretensions of newness
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Features_new_to_Windows_Vista

    Can you point me to five other software releases from any software company with a bigger feaureset upgrade. Okay make that three.

    I think that Microsoft is trying to change itself from a technology company to a consumer products company

    You are thinking wrong.

    Your original post made no sense. Your hand waving about maturing markets does not dent in anyway the jump in Windows and Office sales in 2007. You obviously dont believe in reading balancesheets.

    You can watch Microsoft collapse under its own weight or become a consumer products company in your own special universe. This blog is dedicated to making inane posts, so I wasn’t expecting anything rational here. But unfortnately, I like holding up a mirror to idiots every once in a while.

    The loose couplings that are the hallmark of OS software used to be a pain so far, but will soon prove an advantage.

    I think an appropriate response to this inane statement is LOLz

Comments are closed.