Will Linux Replace Microsoft Windows?

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I've been working with computers since the mid-80s, initially using an Apple Macintosh and then moving to Microsoft Windows-based machines around 1991.

The first version of Windows I used was version 2.x (I can not remember the exact number), which I seem to remember did not do anything too special. However, with the introduction of Windows 3.0, things started to improve dramatically, with Windows providing an environment in which you could 'comfortably' run applications.

Since then, like half the world I think, I've used various versions of Windows and I currently use XP. I have to say that, on the whole, I'm quite a fan of Windows. I've always found it fairly easy to use and it's always (well 'almost always) enabled me to do my job without too many hickups.

A couple of years ago though, I bought a book on Linux which included a CD for Fedora Core 1.0. I was not sure what to expect when I installed the software, but what I got really impressed me. The user interface was nice and clean and, once you got used to it, fairly easy to use. OK, it was not as Windows polished as, but considering it was free, it was very good!

I could not get my printer to work, but I know that a lot of hardware manufacturers only provide driver software for Windows, so unless someone has written a specific Linux driver for your bit of hardware, it will not work. I think even then, some hardware just will not work with Linux. That's no big deal though, as there are loads of printers and so on that do work with Linux, so it's just a case of checking that a piece of hardware is supported before buying it.

What really surprised me though was how amazingly fast Internet access was. Opening web pages in Mozilla on Linux happened in an instant – as fast as if the page was on my hard disk! I have fast broadband access, but even so, I still have to wait sometimes while IE7 opens a page on Windows. Not long enough for it to be a problem, but there is a slight delay there. With Mozilla / Linux though it's instantaneous.

So, this brings me to me question – will Linux push Windows out of the frame? After all, the fact that it is free has got to be a big selling point (not that is has to be sold, of course). I understand that in developing markets (China, India, etc), Linux is very popular. These are massive markets, which will undoubtedly influence the IT industry in lots of ways. The more people that use something, the more popular it becomes, which causes even more people to use it – the snowball effect.

I guess the question is, if I had a blank machine with nothing on it at all, would I install Linux or would I play it safe and install Windows? If it was a machine that only I was going to use then, yes, I think I would make the switch to Linux. However, if it was a machine that my wife and kids were going to use, I would probably stick with Windows. After all, my wife just wants the easiest solution available, and that's Windows.

The lack of hardware support is still the big sticking point, I think, to mass adoption of Linux. If this changes though, I think in a few years time we could see Linux becoming more mainstream as far as home and business use is concerned.

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