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Linux is not Windows Lite

Remember the title of the article I cited yesterday: Ubuntu Linux Vs. Windows Vista: The Battle For Your Desktop? There's a pair of assumptions embedded in there that tell us a lot about what's holding Linux back.

The surface assumption is that Windows is the leading desktop and Linux the challenger - but this is actually wrong: the desktop leader is Apple's BSD variant with Windows in second place - leading on volume, but trailing far behind on measures ranging from reliability and ease of use to scalability and ease of application development.

The more subtle assumption, however, is that Linux should be compared to Windows; i.e. that Windows is the natural target for the evolution of Linux or, more directly, that Windows is what Linux wants to be.

Unfortunately, as I've said elsewhere, linux is not Windows and efforts to make it so are doomed to fail. Nobody gets to be a leader by following, and neither OpenOffice nor Linux are going to beat Microsoft at being Microsoft while following where Microsoft leads - just as Microsoft is never going to beat Apple on technology by copying its interface and gadgets.

So what's the bottom line? Simple: for Linux to make it to second place in the desktop sweeps it's got to stop trying to be a cheaper Windows and become a better Linux instead.

The OpenOffice people don't do that - their echo chamber develops around Microsoft Office - and campaign journalists like the guy I quoted yesterday don't do it either - because their beliefs are founded in a Microsoft world, and consequently their assumptions can't transcend that - but at the personal level you can, and at the community level, Linux could too.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.