You gotta love it. Microsoft has decided that it will go ahead and kill off easy access to XP on June 30th. On behalf of desktop Linux users everywhere, and our first cousins, the Mac fans, thanks. You've given us the best shot we'll ever have of taking the desktop.
But it gets even better! Microsoft has also announced that it will be releasing Windows 7 on January 2010. They'll blow that ship date. Microsoft has never set a shipping date it could meet. But, who in their right mind would now buy Vista?
I mean, come on, I don't think anyone with their wits about them would buy Vista anyway. Vista is to operating systems what the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are to the National Football League, the worse of all time. Vista was trash; Vista is trash; and now Microsoft, as expected, is throwing Vista on the trash dump.
It also helps that Microsoft has decided to go ahead and dump XP, the operating system its customers want, no matter how loudly they say they want to keep buying XP. Now that's showing your customers how much you really care about what they want.
Desktop Linux is poised to make the most of this opportunity to convince Windows users that there is a better way. For starters, desktop Linux doesn't lock you into a single vendor. This is also where desktop Linux beats Apple all hollow. Whereas Microsoft has just shown you that they don't care what you want, with desktop Linux you will always be able to use the version of the operating system you want to use. Absolutely love Red Hat 9, the last consumer version of Red Hat Linux from 2003? You can still download a fresh copy of it from Red Hat. I'm not sure why you would, but you can, and I know some people who are still using it on servers to this day.
The desktop Linuxes also are now available from top OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) such as Dell, Lenovo, and Asus. You don't need to install anything. You just buy it, turn it on, and use it.
Oh, and all those horrid stories about hard Linux is to use? They never had much truth in them to begin with and anyone who can use XP can run modern Linux distributions like Ubuntu 8.04, Fedora 9, and openSUSE 11. For that matter, with distributions like Xandros, which you'll find on the popular Asus Eee line of inexpensive computers, any one who has ever used Windows may be hard put to tell they're not running Windows Finally, there are distributions like gOS, that any reasonably bright elementary school student can use.
Applications? You can't live without your favorite Windows application and the mere thought of virtualization to get them gives you hives or switching to OpenOffice from Microsoft Office makes you sick to the tummy? The 15-years in the making WINE 1.0 project just came out, and with it you can run Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Quicken, and many other program like, ahem, Guild Wars my Windows-based online game of choice, on Linux. WINE, and its commercial big-brother, CodeWeavers' Crossover Linux, lets me run pretty much any Windows application I want on Linux without any hassles.
Add it all up and what do you get? Well, what I get is Microsoft telling its desktop customers to jump in the lake, until 2010 anyway and that gives you lots of time to give desktop Linux a try. I don't think, I know, you'll be very pleased at what you find. Thanks Microsoft, we couldn't have done it without you.
This story, "Dear Microsoft: Thanks for the Help, Linux" was originally published by Computerworld.