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 ofmany 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 thefrontrunner 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 afight. 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 OSdemo with the feeling that I want that OS running on my desktop.
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 Vistadebuts.
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 cant go into many specifics, but suffice it tosay 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 cant be drawn until the OS is released and
adopted by the masses to find out its true strengths and weaknesses. I hope
this wont be a weakness, but it is the first place I might expect to seeproblems.
The other thing that bothers me a little is not technical in
nature at all, but its 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. Wasnt there a lawsuit about that?
Something about antitrust? Silly me, I thought that it might have meantsomething.
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 movingto 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 tobe, but if it comes close, it will find a home on my machines.