May 3rd, 2006 at 02:33pm
This was originally going to be a minor point in the article about Apple’s advertising campaign, but it has developed into an article in its own right.
I’ve already drawn two upgrade lines for Microsoft software, one being that I’m not upgrading MS Office beyond Office 2000, as Open Office is in my view a superior product (although I do still use MS Office 2000 for some tasks), and the other line being Internet Explorer, which is now relegated to use on IE-Centric sites only, as I much prefer Firefox and Opera (excluding Windows Update for which I use the faster and easier WindizUpdate).
I am now drawing another line: Windows XP will be the last version of Windows I ever use. Windows Vista will, in my opinion, be the proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back. Windows has enjoyed a long reign at the top, but it is an outdated mess of security issues, Microsoft’s attempts to introduce proprietary standards (oxymoron), and various other problems which need fixing, much like Apple Mac OS 9 was before they released OS X with an entirely different base.
It is quite clear to me that both Mac and Linux have clear advantages over Windows, and I think the general public will also see this soon. The Ubuntu Linux people are doing a good job, and have made some interesting changes for the next version due in June, which does make it look like a good alternative to Windows.
The people at Apple have also done an excellent job on Mac OS X, and with their Boot Camp software providing Windows compatibility, I think it is now clear that Windows will become a secondary operating system with other operating systems taking the lead for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, Windows will still be there, it just won’t be the primary choice for most people, as they will use other operating systems for their day-to-day needs. Of course, there is every possibility that Windows will regain popularity in ten years or so when Mac and Linux start to stagnate and Windows shows ingenuity, after all Windows won favour over Mac and OS/2 by showing the lead a bit over ten years ago.
One thing I think is important here is that having multiple operating systems, multiple web browsers, multiple office suites etc, all gaining public favour is that it distributes the user base so drastically that it promotes ingenuity from all of the competing software writers, and makes life much harder for malicious users who would no longer have one bit of potentially vulnerable software giving them potential to wreak havoc on 90% or more of computer users. It also makes it necessary for software developers to use accepted standards (such as the Open Document Format, or the iCal calendar format) as their users will need to exchange data with other users. Open standards also allow everyone to work together on the future of IT according to their own needs, rather than working against each other, which effectively means that computers will do what people want, sooner rather than later.
Back to the security benefits of having multiple dominant operating systems and web broswers etc, the current situation looks somewhat similar to this (this is an example and probably isn’t entirely accurate, but is close enough):
- Windows/Internet Explorer: 90%
- Windows/Other browser: 6%
- Other OS/Browser of any sort: 4%
Imagine if it looked something like this:
- Mac/Safari: 20%
- Mac/Firefox: 15%
- Mac/Opera: 5%
- Linux/Firefox: 20%
- Linux/Konqueror: 10%
- Linux/Opera: 10%
- Windows/Internet Explorer: 15%
- Windows/Firefox: 3%
- Windows/Opera: 2%
Suddenly you have a mass distribution of users amongst all sorts of software, in which the vulnerabilities could very easily only work on one operating system and not the others. Even if one application did have a cross-platform vulnerability, the most damage it could do would be 38% (Firefox), which is a far cry from the 90% (Windows/Internet Explorer) in the first example. This makes maliciousness much more difficult and less rewarding, and also means that consumers have a greater choice as to which software combination works best for them, safe in the knowledge that their chosen software will be able to exchange data with somebody using different software on a different operating system.
Under the second example, things such as the recent WMF exploit wouldn’t have been as likely to occur due to less people using any particular operating system, would have been less damaging for the same reason, and would have seen a quicker response from the software vendor due to increased competition.
I will admit that I am partially anti-Microsoft, but that it because I think they have become very complacent in their monopolistic position, and day-to-day consumers who just want their computer to do one task or another, suffer as a result. Competition is needed here, and I think the Vista/Mac/Linux combination is about to make it happen.