Microsoft Challenges Linuxs Legacy Claims

News Analysis: Tests run in Redmond's Linux lab seek to dispel the myth that Linux can run on anything, especially older legacy hardware.

Editors Note: This story is Part 1 in a series of three stories about Microsofts Linux and open-source lab.

Microsoft Corp.s Linux and open-source lab on the Redmond, Wash., campus has been running some interesting tests of late, one of which looked at how well the latest Windows client software runs on legacy hardware in comparison to its Linux competitors.

This may seem strange, given Microsofts desire to upgrade every possible customer to the latest version of Windows, often resulting in a forced hardware upgrade as well. That strategy, however, is far more effective in the developed world than among developing nations, Bill Hilf, who is director of Platform Technology Strategy at Microsoft and runs the lab, told eWEEK in a recent interview.

The tests, which found that Windows performed as well as Linux on legacy hardware when installed and run out-of-the-box, were done in part to give Microsoft the data it needed to effectively "put to rest the myth that Linux can run on anything."

"It also shows us what applications can run on those machines and software, helping us better identify the needs and challenges of the public sector in those countries," Hilf said.

There was this pervasive belief that Linux could run on older PCs and that Windows could not, he said, adding that Microsoft thus decided to test this premise by installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Pro 9.2, Mandrake 10, Linspire 4.5, Xandros Desktop 3.0, Fedora Core 3, Slackware 10.1, Knoppix 3.7, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 out of the box on older hardware to see what happened.

"Quite simply, I wanted to examine this factually, using real customer scenarios to test this hypothesis: Can Linux run on older hardware than Windows? In many developing countries and public institutions, such as a local library, they typically dont have deep technical staff, so they need to use software without lots of modification and customization. This is why our testing focused on installing modern distributions of Linux and modern versions of Windows out of the box—simply putting the CD-ROM in and installing—on the legacy PC hardware in our lab," Hilf said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about Microsofts lab.

Asked why he believed there is such a pervasive belief that Linux can run on older hardware, Hilf said the technical capability to modify Linux, to strip it down to run with a minimal set of services and software so that it can run on all sorts of hardware devices, has generated that larger assumption that any type of Linux distribution can run on all sorts of hardware devices.

Next Page: Users modify the OS.