If you believe what you read on slashdot, were rapidly approaching a desktop Linux revolution. But whether or not Linux some day shatters our desktop Windows, you need only glance into any school, home or workplace to see that the day of Linux mascot Tux the Penguins desktop dominion is not today—and wont be tomorrow, either. According to a recent IDC report, Windows accounted for 92 percent of client operating system shipments last year. Shipments of desktop Linux were up 25 percent last year but accounted for less than 2 percent of the total client operating system market.
On the bright side—for Linux, at least—a large chunk of Microsofts operating system shipments last year were Windows 9x and Windows ME, a code base that Microsoft plans to take out back and shoot not long after Windows XP emerges from Redmond.
To sell Windows XP, Microsoft will have to convince Windows 9x users that the operating system theyre using is lousy and should be replaced. Microsoft has already gotten started on this with magazine advertisements for Windows 2000 that mock a Windows 95 box thats fallen into a “blue screen” and cant get up.
The challenge—and the opportunity—for companies such as Red Hat is to convince disgruntled Windows 9x users to switch to Linux rather than shell out cash for a Windows XP upgrade.
Although Linuxs considerable system stability edge over Windows will die along with the 9x code base—as anyone whos already moved to Windows 2000 can attest—the low price of Linux will remain a significant advantage over Windows. An upgrade version of Windows 2000 Professional retails for $219, and the Windows ME upgrade sells for $109. If Microsoft prices Windows XP Professional and Home Editions similarly, itll have to vie for upgrade dollars with solid Linux distributions that can be had for $30 or free if downloaded from the Internet.
However, this window of opportunity for Linux may be a small one because as more users begin to obtain Windows XP preloaded on new PCs rather than as an upgrade, the deep price breaks that Microsoft grants OEMs will eat into Linuxs cost advantages.