Why Windows 7 will never kill off Linux

My Network World blogging colleague Ron Barrett has whooped up a firestorm with his blog post "Why Windows 7 will crush Linux". I have to say he's one brave soul for taking on the open source and Linux crowd. They're a passionate and vocal bunch, and the only thing higher on their "most-wanted list" than George Bush is Microsoft. Ron seems to weathering it well, though, so more power to him for saying what he believes.

In the interest of being fair and balanced, I'm respectfully taking the other viewpoint -- that Linux won't get crushed by Windows 7. We could do a feature-by-feature comparison of the two operating systems, but I believe there are more fundamental, systemic reasons Linux isn't going away anytime soon. Matter of fact, many of them are the exact reasons open source and Linux have become such a dominant force in software. That's not to say I think Windows 7 will be a failure, either. I believe Windows 7 is going to be a very big success -- on the desktop.

Now, for my arguments why Windows 7 won't kill off Linux:

Free beer is, well, free. No matter how hard anyone argues that "open source has a higher TCO," free software will always feel like it's free. If your staff has the inclination, they can download and run any variety of Linux distros on desktops or servers. There's no program to sign up for, and no sales person will call. 

Free has given Linux the keys to the backdoor of untold numbers of data centers and computer rooms. So, there's no doubt Linux has solidified itself in the data center, including on the desktops of many IT and network technical staff. Will Linux continue its march onto users' desktops? Maybe Windows 7 will slow the progress, but Linux certainly isn't going away any time soon.

Upgrades, it's up to you. Let's face it, not everyone wants to cozy up to one dominant vendor, Microsoft. We've all been through or heard about situations where Microsoft is forcing us to upgrade because they aren't supporting a version of Windows (or other products) anymore. It's the proverbial gun-to-the-head scenario -- at least that's how many customers see it. And we are all waiting for the same to happen with Windows XP to get us to move to Windows 7.

This doesn't happen with Linux. Want to hang on and run your apps on some obscure version of slackware or Fedora? Go right ahead, there's no one to stop you, and you'll very likely find the software's still supported somewhere in the community. There's no one dominant vendor to force an upgrade from you. Some will never put their IT systems completely onto the Microsoft treadmill.

The Linux and Mac crowds have banded together.  With Mac OS X being built on BSD, a sibling of Linux, many Linux fans I know and work with quickly moved to Mac OS X on Apple hardware for their everyday desktop or laptop. Not only is BSD familiar to Linux users, it also brings a proven Apple desktop experience with a big dose of chic. To me this is an odd-bedfellows sort of match though, given Apple's expensive hardware and history of locking in customers. That's something I would think open source advocates would rail against. But many Linux users have now banded together with Apple, strengthening their lines on both the Linux and Apple battlefronts. I guess this proves the old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

(Author's note: Okay, if those lofty ideas didn't convince you Linux isn't gonna get killed off by Windows 7, these last two are my closers. Simple and straight to the point.)  

If XP's so good, why didn't it already kill off Linux? That says it all. Nuff said.

And if Windows 7 doesn't wow XP users into converting, why would Linux users convert? We don't know the answer to this one yet, but still -- nuff said.

Like this? Here are some of Mitchell's recent posts.

Mitchell's Book Recommendations: Also visit Mitchell's other blogs and podcasts:

Visit Microsoft Subnet for more news, blogs, opinion from around the Web. Sign up for the bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.