When you are looking for an operating system to run your

mission critical systems on, you look for an OS that is stable, manageable,

secure, scalable, and can perform when called upon. That being the case, there

is little mystery as to why Linux has made inroads into the server rooms of

many organizations.

The desktop however is an entirely different matter

altogether. People define a good desktop OS as one that is attractive, easy to

use, and runs their favorite applications. This has been where Linux has

struggled. Even with Gnome and KDE and the various other flavors of GUI that

have been placed on top of Linux, it has had to work hard to get to the point

where it was comparable to a Windows XP desktop. However, the work was

beginning to pay off and companies like Red Hat and Novell were driving things

forward as Microsoft made incremental changes to its flagship OS since Windows

2000. Most of these changes were not ground-breaking, and if the desktop OS

space were a horse race, you could feel Linux beginning to close on the

frontrunner OS in terms of features and functionality.

But as Microsoft has watched Linux creep into the server

room (mostly supplanting UNIX rather than Windows) someone at MS must have

decided that they were not going to give an inch in the desktop space without a

fight. Thus, we have the impending release of Windows Vista.

From a sneak peak demonstration and hands-on with Microsoft

Vista last week, all I have to say is that if MS comes through and all the

functions and features that were shown and described to me turn out to be

reliable–Microsoft has raised the bar in desktop computing. The session I had

with Vista was the first time in a very long time that I have left an MS OS

demo with the feeling that I want that OS running on my

I am a skeptic though, and the proof will be in the pudding

when it is released, but if it operates reliably in real-world environments,

then MS will have set a new standard for desktop computing.

If you have read my columns long enough, you know then that

this pains me to a certain degree as I have always felt that competition is a

good thing, and I have been a Linux advocate for quite some time. But the Linux

community is going to have to its work cut out for it even more after Vista


So what is so great about Vista? The look and feel of the OS;

its new security model; additional group policy objects; new ability to deploy

a single OS image over a variety of hardware; the ability to take advantage of

existing hardware in new ways; and many other features set this OS apart. It is

not your old XP with a new face. Because I saw a build that has not been

released to the public yet, I can’t go into many specifics, but suffice it to

say that it is definitely an improvement over XP and 2000.

So is there anything that troubles me about the new OS? Of

course! The new scripting system has me worried. While it may prove to be a

very powerful tool, I am still gun shy about malicious scripts that may get

unleashed on my OS. While MS states that this is the most secure Windows ever

and it has been built with security in mind, history tells me to be cautious

here. Again, any conclusions can’t be drawn until the OS is released and

adopted by the masses to find out its true strengths and weaknesses. I hope

this won’t be a weakness, but it is the first place I might expect to see


The other thing that bothers me a little is not technical in

nature at all, but it’s about innovation. The new SideBar and Gadgets and

search functionality of Vista (at least to me) scream Google Desktop. Yes it is

a little slicker than Google Desktop, but clearly it seems to be inspired by

it. This always leads me back to the whole argument about taking third-party

products and implementing them in the OS. Wasn’t there a lawsuit about that?

Something about antitrust? Silly me, I thought that it might have meant


Despite all that, I believe Microsoft has a winner on its

hands with Vista, and unlike XP, where organizations had to be convinced that

the upgrade from Windows 2000 was worth the trouble, I see organizations moving

to Vista fairly quickly.

So for those predicting that this was to be the year where

Linux makes some inroads at the corporate desktop level, I say the opportunity has

been missed and the bar has been raised. In my opinion, MS is making a

statement with Vista that it owns the desktop and plans to keep it that way for

quite some time. Only time will tell if Vista is all that it is cracked up to

be, but if it comes close, it will find a home on my machines.