Microsoft Windows Vs. Linux – the Fundamental Issue

linux145 Microsoft Windows Vs. Linux – the Fundamental Issue
Allison Merlino asked:

The comparison of these two operating systems (OS) and the debates which developed have been ongoing for years. Clashing opinions have recently heated up and received even greater exposure due to the One Laptop per Child’s XO vs. Intel’s Classmate issues. (Two competing low priced laptops intended for use by children in developing remote areas.) XO choosing to use Linux and Classmate choosing to use Windows has fueled the debate as if the OS created and marketed these laptops themselves!

The fundamental difference between these two systems is Microsoft Windows is closed source while Linux is open source. Once computer software is written it can be copied and reproduced at a very low cost. Or the original source code can have a large commercial value by keeping it hidden and treating it as a trade secret.

Closed source avoids duplication and reverse engineering and keeps their competitive advantage by producing their product in a compiled executable state. While open source allows for any user to view and modify the source code. Engineers value the improvements to their software made by the community of developers far more than their competitive advantage.

There are a numerous points that are debated regularly including the difference in the price of Windows and the lack there of for free Linux. The counter argument is that both systems are expensive to maintain.

Reliability is also largely debated being that Linux has a reputation for fewer bugs than Windows. Linux is considered more stable than Windows being that after installation far less problems are reported. This is thought to be because Windows mistakes are hidden from everyone but the programmers, whereas Linux is open to review from programmers all over the world. Time pressure for release of the advertised closed source product to meet a sales target is also thought to play a role in the amount of error. Open source has no target to meet therefore the software will only be released when finished. Customer support is handled nicely by Microsoft however and the cost of maintenance in the end is similar for both operating systems.

Design to incorporate multiple users has been debated being that Linux is designed to be a system of multiple users where as Windows is designed to handle one person at a time.

Whether or not Linux will become the dominant operating system is analyzed with attention to the closing gap between the number of users of these two systems being closely monitored.

Linux becoming the dominant system is highly unlikely being that Microsoft can adapt to open-source methods if need be. That being said, I do not believe that the passion behind this issue has to do with the fear of change or with one system being better than the other. They clearly both have their strengths and weaknesses and when competition exists it is the choice of each consumer or purchaser to obtain the product which will better meet their individual needs. There is not a threat of either system monopolizing or becoming obsolete.

I believe the passion has to do with the fundamental issues themselves. Free software that reflects a community of programmers expertise, input and hard work vs. a commercial money hungry, profit seeking, source code hiding, monster corporation.

I believe that ideals, opinions on corporations, the opinion that a system that values improvement above the competitive advantage is better are being transferred to the debate of Windows vs. Linux. The debate is an interesting one but perhaps the simplicity of the matter has been overlooked. They are competitors. They will compete and as consumers we will choose the better product to meet our needs. And we as consumers benefit greatly from product competition.

The comparison of Microsoft Windows and Linux and the debates which developed have been ongoing for years. Clashing opinions have recently heated up and received even greater exposure due to the XO vs. Classmate issues. We as consumers should embrace this competition.

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