An article titled Mac poses as much of challenge to Linux as to Windows is both insightful and missing the point.
The general thrust of the article, is dead-on. It's just the sort of stuff I've been saying to folks about OS X. It's the only "Unix on the Desktop" package that really delivers. (Side note: I'm going to be at O'Reilly's OS X Conference tomorrow.) Red Hat is playing catch up with Apple and they're at a severe disadvantage.
However, later in the article is a mini-review of Red Hat Linux 8.0, which just came out today. The author notes that:
In short, a PC loaded with Red Hat 8 can handle about 95 percent of the average user's needs. This much software from Microsoft would cost about $400. But Red Hat 8 can be downloaded from the Internet for free. To get service and support, you have to pay for the software, but only $39.95 for the basic desktop version.
Excellent. Many folks have been predicting that this day would come.
The article also says:
In our test of Red Hat 8, none of this mattered. The disk partition process is automated now. As for compatibility, the software identified and self-installed all the vital peripherals on our test machine without incident. And there was none of this Microsoftian nonsense about software authentication. As a result, Red Hat is actually easier to install than Windows XP.
That's no surprise. Red Hat has been working themselves crazy to ensure that it'd be easy to install. Easier than Windows. Easier than any other version of Linux. Easier than any commercial Unix.
But then we get to this:
However, cheap is not enough. Red Hat 8 is still a ragbag of code, written by amateurs and part-timers and jumbled all together. And it shows. For instance, the feature for allowing you to share information with a Handspring handheld computer didn't work properly. A Red Hat engineer admitted that he wasn't sure of the reason, because the underlying software was written by somebody outside the company and he knew little about it.
Corporate users pay for Microsoft products largely because they get a decent level of support from the company. Because Linux isn't controlled by Red Hat or any other company, delivering the same level of service is far harder. But it'll have to be done.
This shows that folks at the Boston Globe, like so many other of the mass media STILL DON'T GET IT.
Linux is an operating system. It is not a desktop. Red Hat Linux is a large bundle of software, little of which was written by Red Hat. To compare all the pieces of Red Hat Linux that Red Hat did not develop with Microsoft Windows simply doesn't work. It's apples and oranges. Stop it. All of you.
Linux and Open Source are a new way of doing things. They are not the commercial software market. The whole point is that this "ragbag of code, written by amateurs and part-timers and jumbled all together" is often (certainly not always) better than the commercial alternatives.
Just look at what Apache has done in the server world. It's the number one web server and has been for a long, long time. Microsoft is not winning in that space. Expect to see similar things on the desktop. I'm not predicting that Linux will take over the desktop--not by a long shot. But there will be killer apps on the desktop. Just look at all the innovative new projects that have sprung up to build on the foundation that Mozilla has provided.
Posted by jzawodn at September 30, 2002 08:42 PM