Is Linux Really a Contender Against Longhorn?

Microsoft looks to be giving the Linux client an opening against Windows with its changes to Longhorn's timing and features. Or are other contenders waiting in the wings? Check out two vastly different views of its opportunities.

Just a few months back, the target date for Microsofts next-generation version of Windows, dubbed "Longhorn," seemed to be moving into the distance faster than a skeet on a shooting range. Turning this situation on its head, company executives recently set a firm date—sometime in 2006—for the release of a Longhorn operating system. But now, its the Longhorn feature set thats in flux.

For many in the industry, Microsofts sudden shift in strategy looks like a golden opportunity. But theres a rub: Its Microsoft and Windows that were talking about here, the worlds largest software developer and the worlds most popular operating system, respectively.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about Microsofts decision to remove features from Longhorn in order to meet the 2006 shipping date.

The candidate often volunteered to take advantage of Microsofts Longhorn troubles is a Linux desktop. A number of companies are either offering such a package now or planning one for the near future. And a growing list governmental agencies around the world have expressed interest in shifting off of the Windows platform for some open-source alternative.

But is Linux the best choice for business and consumer clients? Here are two differing viewpoints:

/zimages/4/27780.jpgIn a column, Linux and Open Source Center editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols says that "even the most fanatical Microsoft supporter has to see that Longhorn has become Shorthorn."

"Microsoft has often managed to freeze the market with promises that no matter how great a competitors current program is, Microsofts next program will be so much better that only a fool would settle for a bird in the hand instead of the two in the Microsoft bush. We have been such fools," he says.

"No, Microsoft has finally shown that its bag of tricks is empty. Now is the time for Linux vendors to get their act together and deliver the best possible Linux desktop."

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read Vaughan-Nichols commentary, "Microsofts Longhorn Failure Is Linuxs Chance."

But theres plenty of room for disagreement.

/zimages/4/75965.jpgIn a column, David Coursey wonders whether the changes in the Longhorn roadmap really are the "best chance ever" for desktop Linux. "Only if the difference in going from teensy weensy to merely teensy can be considered a big improvement. To the rest of us, either size is still just a speck," he says.

"Using this sort of measurement, one might even say Longhorns trouble improves desktop Linuxs chances by 100, 1,000 or even one million times. Its just that youre starting with such a tiny chance that even a big multiplier doesnt make it much larger in practical terms."

According to Coursey, Linux is not a good choice for user desktops. "It is possible for a motivated user—whether by anti-Microsoft sentiment, a light wallet or the desire to be a technological Flying Wallenda—to build a useful Linux desktop. Ive even built one myself," he adds.

Courseys potential candidate to counter Longhorn will surprise many.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read Courseys commentary, "Linux Doesnt Make Sense for Desktops."

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.


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