Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Are we nearing the end of "The Windows Age"?

I have been working in the IT industry for many years. As a result I remember a time before Windows or any other graphical  operating system was available. Initially when graphical operating systems became common on personal computers there were several popular alternatives, but after a few years Microsoft Windows became so popular that many people thought that it was the only viable operating system.

In the last few years the popularity of Microsoft Windows has been
slipping due to a number of buggy releases and so people have started to
look for alternatives. My personal experience with speaking to Sametime customers is that many customers in
Europe have begun to ask us for support for Linux client support (mainly Ubuntu
flavour) while customers in USA have begun asking for Mac support.

There was a lot of interest in the recent story in the Financial Times about how Google is strongly discouraging their employees from using Windows for their daily work. In fact the Daily Telegraph reports that Google employees are effectively banned from using Windows and are encouraged to choose either Mac OSX or Linux instead. I am not sure if this story is even true or if it is an indication of a trend that will be replicated at other large companies.

In IBM we have a policy of supporting a wide variety of operating systems and allowing employees to choose which they would like to use on their work laptops based upon their personal preferences. Recently a batch of eight students began summer intern-ships in the Dublin labs and were issued with laptops. Seven of  the eight students in IBM chose to install Ubuntu for their desktop. I wonder is this an indication of what operating system is most popular with the current generation of students!!!


  1. Hi Brian! I certainly hope it is an indication not only of what is popular, but also of what is better. I recently installed Ubuntu on a ThinkPad T42p, which seemed like it was ready for the scrap heap. Now, though, it has a new lease on life, and it is running like a champion!

    I cannot wait until the day I can completely move off Windows. For now, I need to keep Windows on my primary workstation, especially for Domino Designer. I am counting down the days until the Designer and Admin clients are fully supported on Linux. My experience has been that the Notes client runs even better on Linux than Windows, so I am sure that Designer will too when it's finally available.

    I'm not surprised that Google is making a strong move away from Windows--for many reasons. When I worked at Lucent/Bell Labs in the mid- to late-90's, I worked on the Inferno operating system project (, and Rob Pike was one of its creators. Rob is now at Google Labs (; at Bell Labs he was a very prominent member of Computer Science Research Center, the birthplace of Unix and many derivative operating systems over the years. The head of that group was none other than Dennis Ritchie (

    I say, let's close the Windows (age) and fully open the door to an era of choice and open computing not dictated by a monopoly stifling innovation and progress.


  2. @Steve
    I agree that having Windows as a dominant operating system is a bad thing and I hope it ends. However, the problem is not Windows as such - the problem is that we should not allow any one system to acquire a monopoly. More variety leads to more innovation.

  3. I to have just given an old laptop a new lease of life and found that it now meshes seamlessly with my desktop, also running Ubuntu (sharing bookmarks, passwords and so on). The fact that I can download free software to manipulate digital data of almost any kind makes the whole setup unbeatable in my eyes. I has a few rough edges but it's pretty good and I can set up accounts that my daughter and partner can use and hardly notice they are not using windows.

    I also remember the days...I went for Windows at the start because I wanted to run CorelDraw, in other words i wanted a specific application not the required operating system. Now I use the Inkscape the Linus Vector creation graphics application

    I would be happy to have a Mac for aesthetics and ease of use but I don't want to be tied in with Apples tight grip on what can't and can't be run.

    As Brian said a monopoly is a bad thing and if there is a choice I freely choose Linux and Ubuntu for now....

  4. Exactly, Brian. The problem is the lack of choice and the dictating of what is considered "standard." Openness will only lead to greater innovation. It passes control to the consumers to be able to choose what is better for them, rather than being forced into what someone in a far off Ivory Tower wants or doesn't want.

    I am concerned too, Dave, about "Apple's tight grip." Although the introduction of OS X for the Mac seemed to indicate a move in the direction of openness, they have retained an almost monopoly-like control of it. And they have been even more controlling with the iPhone, although it's popularity has given rise to a tremendous number of very useful apps at no- or very low-cost. That's more of a function of the iPhone community itself rather than Apple. This is in stark contrast to the Windows Mobile platform, where there are far, far fewer apps available and most are as costly or more so than desktop software.


  5. Couldn't agree more about "Apple's tight grip". Apple products tend to be well designed, but the Apple lock in is much worse than the Microsoft lock in.

    Apple have a tiny market share and they still give little thought to easy integration with other vendors' equipment. If Apple had the same market share as Microsoft I shudder to think how they might begin to act.