Windows optimize

The operating system is dead, long live the operating system

Is your chosen brand of operating system really all that important to you and your business anymore? Can't your systems accommodate just about any OS now? Take the poll, and we will find out.

I am the Senior Editor in charge of the TechRepublic Microsoft Windows Blog, and I have been in this position for a very long time now. That being said, I am very much an agnostic when it comes to the religious-like battles that take place between evangelists of the various personal computer operating systems. I cover Microsoft Windows because it is my job, not because it fulfills my spiritual needs.

Don't get me wrong, I like Windows 7 very much and have installed it on all my personal computers -- it is stable, quick, and, most importantly, capable of running  the applications I want to run. And when you get right down to the real nitty-gritty, isn't that all an operating system is supposed to do?

I bring this up because earlier this week, Jason Hiner asked a very interesting poll question in the Tech Sanity Check Blog:

How loyal are you to Microsoft Windows?

The question intrigued me because, as I thought about it, I realized I am not really "loyal" to Windows at all. I think more than anything it is simple inertia that keeps me using that operating system. Sure Mac OS X and Linux can run most of the applications I run in Windows, but why change? Neither of those operating systems does anything spectacularly better or different than Windows. More and more, the operating systems are just clones of each other; changing is not really changing anymore.

It is not loyalty or religious-like fervor the keeps me in the Windows camp; it is apathy. (Come to think of it, that is probably what drives the evangelistic true believers so crazy -- so many of us operating system agnostics don't care.)

That personal realization led me to another thought: Is the choice of an operating system really important to the IT pro anymore? Especially for businesses, as more applications become web browser-based, does the operating system really have to be homogenous across the organization? As an IT professional, working with the technology each and every day, do you think the choice of operating system still matters?

Also read:

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

84 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

The Operating System matters the most because the applications that are delivered for that operating system. Mactinosh and Linux equivalents for Windows software remind me of Windows software a decade ago. They lack a lot of features that I use daily. Web pages is where it really makes not difference to what operating system you use, and web pages cannot replace the real applications that you use on any of the platforms. So it looks like I will be using Windows for years to come, because I use the applications that run well on Windows. When the applications for Macintosh and Linux finally catch up to what I am currently using in Windows, I would have greater functionality with the applications that I use in Windows.

flotsam70
flotsam70

Many (most?) developers seem not to have heard of platform independence. Some of our most significant applications are Windows-only. In time, I think we could replace these Windows-specific applications, but it won't be an overnight process. Of course, there is also the "small" matter of convincing the higher-ups that moving to Linux, OS X or (gasp) Solaris is a good move. And I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth that would take place if we tried to introduce Linux to the desktop!

David Horowitz
David Horowitz

On the one hand, all we care about is running the apps. And I don't really care which OS does it, as long as it does it. However, cost of ownership IS important. Windows is a maintenance nightmare, with viruses and broken registry entries and massive complexity to keep the darn machine just running. Mac OS is not like that. Also, the UI is still important. Windows often has slow response times - the event queue can just sit there waiting for events to process. Mac OS responds much better. Also, the overall UI on Mac is so much more intuitive than Windows. However, so much of my business software development still must be done in Windows.

jloopjr
jloopjr

the latest version of Ubuntu ... converted two people already from a windows based environment. The only, literally, ONLY issue thus far with apps and compatibility, is the open source version of Silverlight ... ( running Netflix) everything else seems to work fine.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Speech and beer. Both matter. Eventually, this whole period, where people actually paid for software just to make their computer run other software will be viewed as an oddity, an anachronism, a weird economic "optimize locally at the expense of optimizing globally" sub-step toward truly capable computing solutions. Iow, I don't buy into your crass materialistic view of the future of computing, which assumes that Windows and OS/X actually have value in and of themselves.

Cybrduck
Cybrduck

I believe thinking of only applications in a homogeneous environment is short sighted. Developers create applications, but the Desktop support specialist keeps the PC/Mac/Device running. As a person with my feet in both camps, I would prefer to have a homogeneous environment to keep my sanity. I would not look forward to fixing a problem on a Windows PC and then switching gears to fix a Linux PC issue. I would contend that I am most successful when I can focus on a few than try to be decent at many things, such as managing and supporting multiple OSes.

Creeping Critter
Creeping Critter

...it's like putting regular gas into a diesel tank. It just doesnt work lol

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

Any real Database is going on UNIX, in the past it has been Solaris, lately more Linux and DB2 on mainframe is still used a lot. Also for any WEB server, just more robust and better security. Still like Solaris on Sparc, still rocks with some apps, admin is still not as good as on Linux. Windows is still great for Desktop or smaller shops for simple file/print due to limited knowledge based admin support. Also, anything that requires extensive I/O since Windows lacks in network performance compared to other OS's. Firewalls, other dedicated high I/O appliances better suited to small footprint UNIX/Linux builds.

minimallinux
minimallinux

I use only XP and Debian in a dual boot. These together I find the most useful tools out there and I don't see this changing. Microsofts failure to support XP wont change that I'll find a way to run XP safely regardless. With Debian Linux you have the stability, ease of use and massive support.You can build your own Linux from the ground up, check out my blog on this here http://terminator3000debian.blogspot.com/ to see how easy it is.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I mean if we are calling into question the need for an OS we might as well call into question the need for hardware! Hmm this is getting absurd :) oh wait what did happen to the PowerPC? Arrgghhh! One processor to rule them all!

plandok
plandok

I am a sell-educated user and have also implemented the use of PCS from the mid-'80s. I learned because it was easy to learn from your mistakes. Did Apple produce a hard-bound manual which told you how things worked? I don't think so. Apple wanted to make a "computer" any "idiot" could use. Thus, the dictatorial "control" of the environment so it "always" works. Then they took over the mindspace of casual with clever advertising like only Macs make great graphics or Macs never catch colds, sorry, viruses. This is nonsense in the way that exploring users find ways to do what they want. But mostly they have to do this on PCs. Thus, in my view, Apple limits invention so idiots can use their systems. (I know there are parallel arguments based on cars but I have no interest in cars.) I use, and purchase, small pieces of software from "inventors" which more than fill my need. After looking after eMacs and iMacs (minis too), I found some "little" design things which could not really be changed and which constantly irritated me. Despite their so-called publicized track record for reliability, I had constant repairs to the Macs including non-publicized recalls. And those little interface design changes drove me nuts after being able to completely customize my Windows interface. The Mac interface cannot be customised. I guess it might confuse the "idiots" who use them. I understand this because people have been convinced they can only use Macs because Windows is too complicated. Just like so many American cars - Ford now advertises you have a "second brain" in your car. Would you trust a Ford brain in a bad situation? Again, it is all advertising, this time the "negative" approach which smears your competitors (Republican mood?). I've found people are smarter than they think and can use Windows just as well as Mac once they learn they aren't going to "break" anything. And you can help them by "customizing" their machine which costs a huge amount less and can be easily fixed or augmented if need be. In any case, this argument is for the dinosaurs like me/us who did not grow up with computers, cell/smartphones, tablets, computerized toys, games etc. Today, 2 year olds know how to operate both the DVD player and the TV. Would you have when you were 2 even if you had one? So the tweens and teens of today are really "multilingual" when it comes to this question. They use Mac on their iPods, iPhones and iPads and Android if they have an Android phone or tablet or Windows on Windows stuff. That's how each device works. They don't think about it. But as for the power users, I think Windows will remain since it has long been a business machine and somehow, seems to be more copacetic with business networks and uses. And yes, there is more software available for the knowledgeable user.

sonnystarks
sonnystarks

If the tech idiots, that write these inane articles about how the "world" is rushing to the cloud, would get off their butts and out of their cubicles, they may find that the local auto repair shop is still using Windows NT and the U.S. government (Defense Commissary Agency, DeCA in particular - employing about 5,000 people) is still using XP. They probably will continue to do so until it's deemed ILLEGAL. Are you folks aware that many, many, many large organizations will not even allow cell phones (including "smart phones") on site, much less be used in the transaction of actual business. Everyone is not a "white collar" employee and all businesses are not in the profession of evaluating operating systems! Joe Grocer doesn't care if he's still on Windows 95 as long as it works... Microsoft Word now has a 2007 version? Golly Gee......

AMS-Ray
AMS-Ray

Personally, I prefer Windows OS to Mac OS. I play with other operating systems all the time and like several of them, but I always end up with Windows on my PC's because the software I need to use runs on it. My company's goal is to get to the point where the OS doesn't matter. This can only happen if all our software is web-based or running on Virtual Desktops. Enough of our software can run in VDI that we can use Apple desktops, iPads, Linux PC's or android devices to access them and for a portion of our work force we can be OS agnostic. But we still have applications from other vendors that we cannot replace that will not run in a virtual environment and so a large number of our people have no choice but Windows XP or 32-bit Windows Vista/7.

clarnT
clarnT

. . . the OS is only important to IT and the geek. Everyday users only want to get their work done, information, entertainment, and keep in touch with friends. It's called a browser. I've been working in computing and information science for thirty-five years and have had my "favorite" hardware/software but have over the past fifteen years I've been watching the rise of the browser with excitement. Yes, the backend will matter, but the end-user won't see it and won't care as long as it's working. iOS and Android and WebOS are the OS's to watch. And they will start to morph into purely Browsers on top of simple OS's.

catfish182
catfish182

With any type of general question like this you will get a person to step up and say "hey but i use this app and i need this os for it". With application virtulization you can 'thin-app' a app and for the most part you can use it on any OS. you can even use terminal services and access applications only (of course the terminal client is an OS). of course there will be someone to say i am wrong and OS is crucial but it really comes down to (in my opinion) what apps are you using and how are you using them. We have a client that has to have a windows 98 machine working since tools that they need for legacy equipment only runs on that OS. we are not trying to get them to see that compatable mode OR thin-app (app-v even) might allow them to take that win9x machine out. technology is always moving forward and i think everyone should always have an eye out for what is ahead and one eye on what is working now. BTW- the concept of "if it works- dont fix it' i feel is not a good thing in IT. if you are not careful you can be passed by. case in point people that used office 2003 even after 2007 was out. No desire to change but they started to notice more people were sending 2007 files and caring less if 2003 could read it. of course there was a fix but that comp pack does not always work (the fix being simply upgrade to 2007). but this is just my opinion

Kostaghus
Kostaghus

I can see from far away that most of those that posted here are IT guys (more or less). From a business point of view (I run my small business among other things), a new OS means new expenses. As long as it works DON'T FIX IT! I already have computers (they're 3-5 years old but solid and dependable) that run Windows XP and Office and a bunch of custom developed apps, I can't see why should I spend more money on other computers and eventually new OS's + the time and toil to learn them, and spend even more money on other apps + time toil and productivity losses it takes to learn them. I know that my computing needs won't drastically change in the foreseeable future (accounting, invoicing, etc....) so why bother?!? IF IT WORKS - DON'T FIX IT!!!

sbarsanescu
sbarsanescu

The question should have read: does O/S selection matter to the Enterprise (not to the IT Pro). And yes, it does matter. I would say the "official" business language is Outlook/Office. Really. I doubt many users can do without a word processor, a spreadsheet and mail. And for these... by far in my experience, Windows is king. As to artists and skilled professionals, these use whatever OS (does it really matter) suppports the APPLICATION that drives their paycheck home. So... all in all I agree with the title - the OS is dead. Indeed it is. Who can "make do" with the OS alone? The point here is to use the PC for something, and the OS is infrastructure.

8string
8string

Final cut pro on mac matters. But the depth of keyboard shortcuts and thier memonics (?) on windows matter. I prefer windows, work better on it, more efficiently. I've spent three years deeply using mac os but never have been able to master unintuitive keyboard shortcuts. Excel, word both work better on Windows. But for surfing the net it doesn't seem to matter anymore.

Johnj4269
Johnj4269

Absolutely! Not a simple loyalty matter, but in a business environment who can afford to chop and change without a MASSIVE cost saving prospect. Such an opportunity would have to include the training the of the entire staff, support for customers-retrospective and forward-probable equipment change and the CULTURAL change such switch would bring! Of course one should not ignore change, but the simple economics of change-which would of course be seam free and seamless, error free and enjoyable(!), has to be a factor in such a change.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... if you use computer to learn your living. You need your computer to work, period. As long as OS problems get solved professionally, and in timely manner, it doesn't really matter who provides it- Microsoft, Canonical, or a guy across the street who knows Linux.

disasterboy.info
disasterboy.info

I think that as web standards are adopted and harden, duplicating application front-ends for OSes and web browsers will give way to just a browser interface. Why develop 2 interfaces, especially since all the ises will suppoert compatable and secure browsers. Then the OS interface and the browser will converge. After that the browser will be the shell and the kernel and HAL will be arbitrary for businesses. How long? Well, I give basic office productivity tools about 5 years. Another 10 for all apps and osses to be browser integrated. Just depends on what workplaces need.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Why would any sensible vendor go to the hugely high risk porting (or creating) a similar app, without you already having switched OSes. No demand. Try going to the bean counters with a proposition like that, you'd be chalked up as a total idiot. That's without a number of other huge issues like product quality is not code quality, linux is not windows, never mind a distro and radically different approaches to OS architecure like multiple choices of desktop. There would have to be demand first, and MS has already effectilvely saturated the market, so we are talking some sort of huge intervention, like MS suddenly losing all their business savvy.... If all your apps were available, you still might give a switch the thumbs down, because the inital cost to switch would be hefty and in your face, and the overall benefit of doing so is a depressingly murky series of assumptions. If I told you if you spent a 100k, you may be possibly could save 10k a year after that if nothing else changed, you'd be dubious about it. If I recomended that you do it, all your doubts about me would be resolved instantly.....

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

if it won't support the apps I want to run. If I have to pay for an OS to meet the app's requirements, that makes it no different from upgrading the video card for that app, or adding joystick or RAM. It doesn't matter what you give me free if it won't do the job to my specifications.

Cybrduck
Cybrduck

Your own comments defy logic. You "built" your own OS, I'm pretty certain that would make it alive for you. It matters to you; otherwise, you should get an appliance and worry exclusively about homogeneous applications.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

Yet you use two different OS's because one doesn't do everything you need? That tells me that OS's are not dead. Bill

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

A Ma & Pa appliance user wouldn't see either. They see application (desktop) that launches other applications. In an ideal world which OS and what hardware it runs on shouldn't matter to them. As an application developer, while I'd have to know a bit more about the abstraction, in an ideal world it shouldn't matter to me either. My code should be the least abstract thing I work with. Not true of course which is why my OS and hardware knowledge comes in handy on occasion, and why it definitely does matter right down to version level.

info
info

I had to learn the hard lesson that there's a vast number of people out there that CAN'T make that change so easily. The one instance that really hit home to me was one place I was doing a contract for. A department called having issues setting up the new Linux server they'd purchased, and were told 'we don't support that'. Windows support/admin is my main skill-set, but I pick up anything computer-related fairly easily (and helped people with Linux back when they had to manually copy drivers into their \var\etc folder (can't remember the exact one) and recompile the OS) so I volunteered to look at it. One of the 'established' members of the tech team wanted to come with me to get exposure to the OS. So we get down there, looking at KDE, and I tell him that it's obviously a TCP/IP configuration issue, go into those settings and change them. This SKILLED TECH couldn't find them, and didn't even know where to BEGIN looking. I thought it was second-nature, and easy to find because you just need to track down 'Network Settings'... Sometimes we make things look easy because, to us, they are. But to others, they're huge chasms that can't be crossed. And when we try to explain to them how easy it really is, we come off as condescending, arrogant and insulting...

pfeiffep
pfeiffep

The IT industry still has a ways to go. Eventually we'll just have tools that do the jobs for us without us worrying about M$, Android, Linux, or WHATEVER. Kinda like purchasing a hammer to drive nails, we really don't get to involved with the actual amount of carbon mixed with the iron, nor the actual temperature of the smelting process ......... we just pickup the Friggin hammer and drive the nail.

info
info

Your Office 2003 example doesn't make much sense. For the majority of users I deal with, Office 2000 (or even older versions) would work well enough. When your main reason for upgrading to a newer version is because everyone else has, and the file types aren't compatible, something's wrong... Yeah, I'm talking to YOU, Microsoft. And AutoDesk. And many others...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's "simply" an expensive fix. We're having two problems virtualizing legacy systems, both related to PCI cards. First is trouble finding W7 drivers for legacy cards and attached peripherals; a virtual machine can't access something the host can't see. Second is getting virtualized W9x systems to access cards even when the host can see them.

dogknees
dogknees

"It works" isn't the criteria, it's "could it be done better" and "if it was, would it be more efficient". Unless you are an expert in haptics, ergonomics, interface design,... you aren't going to know whether you could be more effective with a different approach. My personal experience is that the time invested in learning to make best use of new software is always repaid, and often it's repaid in a matter of a few days or weeks. If I was paying someone to do a job for me, I'd certainly expect that they make the most efficient use of current technology. Whether it's a new crane on the site or a new version of Windows in the office.

JJFitz
JJFitz

As a CIO, I have to look at both sides of any new IT initiative; cost versus benefit. Upgrading and replacing so that you have Enterprise applications that work on many platforms is not always cost efficient. I love new stuff just like the next IT guy but in a weak economy, getting that new stuff to work with legacy applications can take up a lot of resources.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The browsers may be secure, but the provider hosting the data may not be. Data security will remain a priority, especially in those fields where privacy is mandated by law.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

I asked about 4 years ago, I contacted WinZip about a small issue I had; namely I needed SN for older versions: 6.3, 8.0, 8.1, & 9.0 I purchased the latest version at the time v. 11.0 and they gave me a SN for every version of WinZip 9.0 and older in the same email I asked if they would ever be creating a "MacZip" and / or "LinZip" as in a native Mac and / or Linux WinZip utility their reply was: "not at this time" some time in the last 6 months I received an email [b]Introducing WinZip for Mac[/b] I still don't see the chicken that laid the egg, I guess it doesn't hurt to ask does it even though I still don't have a Mac but now I can tell people who do have Macs they can get Native support for all the files that WinZip supports on their Mac I'm guessing that software companies are open to versions for different platforms just takes enough people asking for it regardless if those who asked actually use the platform yet etu:

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

You know that could easily be a temporary condition, if people took freedom seriously. That's the point - the article is taking a "practical only" view, as if there are no principles or longer term view that matter.

dogknees
dogknees

How can an OS be alive? It matters, it's important, but it's not alive. Any more than your car, your house, or any other inanimate object you like. As for building your own OS, it wasn't that unusual a couple of decades back. I never went down that path, but did design and implement a virtual machine, a symbolic assembler and an integer C compiler for it. The purpose is not to create an environment that you will work in, it's about learning how this sort of software works. Knowing how it works under the hood will make you a more efficient user of the system.

dogknees
dogknees

If you are interested in getting the best, you look at all those things and more. Knowing this, you can select the best for you purpose. Different hardness for different purposes. It's why an experienced cabinet maker has a dozen or more mallets of different materials, shapes and weights.

pgit
pgit

Second is getting virtualized W9x systems to access cards even when the host can see them. Good luck with that... if you get anywhere let me know. :D

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That assumes the new software brings features the user can take advantage of, and not just additional bloatware and knowledge for knowledge's sake. I've done nothing new in Excel for the past two versions, because I don't need to do anything that wasn't present since 2000.

JJFitz
JJFitz

"the time invested in learning to make best use of new software is always repaid" I wouldn't say always. There's a lot of crappy software out there. and it still doesn't negate my cost versus benefit comment. If for example, the return on investment takes 5 years to realize, you have to think long and hard as to whether or not you should buy that crane and all the retraining and support it will require.

disasterboy.info
disasterboy.info

Quite. But I wasn't arguing for "the cloud" per se just arguing that the OS would treat local hardware or LAN data and processes logically the same as WAN. If an OS has a command prompt it would be accesses through an arbitrary web browser. Why have a separate suite of utilities and applications for an OS GUI when you can use an HTML Browser? A non tetworked PC can have its hard drive explored by a an Internet Browser so why not all its utilities, applications and starting spaces?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Gzip and Gunzip just work, slightly lacking on the graphical front admittedly. :p

JJFitz
JJFitz

there are other things besides computers? Let me Google that. ;)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Including the freedom to have interests outside computers? For most users, computers are just one of the many tools they view strictly from a 'practical only' angle. As long as the tool does what they want, there are things they'd rather be doing than discussing software development models.

Cybrduck
Cybrduck

Come on. The reason this software exists is because programming at the hardware level is insane. The OS exists as a platform for the masses. Could there be a single OS, absolutely. Can you say more insanity though? Options, barring there aren't too many, are true freedom. That being said, the developers do things as standards, and then they add something to make themselves unique. No matter how far in the future we go, If I were developing a commodity type item such as an OS, I would still want to differentiate it from the restk; otherwise, relevance of the OS would be a 'do-do' waiting to happen.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

But you were waaaay too serious for my semi comatose ramble :)

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Probably an errant click -- didn't deserve a mark down. I voted you up, to re-establish balance in the universe. No no, no need to send me money.

dogknees
dogknees

We get these blanket statements like "the OS doesn't matter any more". What's so hard about saying instead "to most people the OS doesn't matter any more, but there are those for whom it will remain a legitimate issue"? The thing that continually bugs me is that the authors of these articles start with broad categorical statements rather than a more considered approach. We have had statements lately about the end of the keyboard and mouse. This really can't be read as anything other than "no one will use a mouse or keyboard in the near future". There are a lot of people all over the world who will be using them for the foreseeable future. It's like headlines that don't match the gist of the article. Yes, they might get me to read them by using a dramatic headline, but once I get into the article, it just annoys me that what I'm reading isn't what I was expecting or is actually contrary to the headline.

pfeiffep
pfeiffep

Certainly professionals will always be concerned with the underlying OS ... or whatever we eventually name it. I contend that the majority of folks are not either professional cabinet makers nor IT gurus and do not need to concern themselves with the OS nor the smelting process for hammers.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Where I work this is a problem with test and diagnostic desktops, and those fall outside the IT dept.