Windows 7 a Linux killer?

Now that Microsoft has released a Windows 7 beta version there has been much speculation that the latest Windows operating system will be a "Linux killer".

The argument put forward by many commentators – like Computer World – is that Windows 7 has been optimised for the ultra-portable netbook market, a market that Linux initially made a play for when they were first released. By going after the netbook market – which in all honesty Microsoft completely dropped the ball on – the feeling is that Microsoft will cut off the growth of Linux and re-establish itself as the dominant title-holder.

The premise is pretty flimsy: the idea that Linux is only succeeding on netbooks is clearly flawed. The truth is that Linux runs on, and is successful on, a range of other platforms in addition to netbooks. In fact, Linux is so versatile that it runs on everything from cellphones to supercomputers to GPS units and most things in between.

Dropped the ball

The thing is that it was just on netbooks that Linux first made Microsoft question its strategy. When the first Asus EEE PC was launched with Linux and started to gain traction Microsoft scrambled to get into the netbook market with its Vista operating system. Which proved to be a hopeless task. As soon as it became clear that Vista was just way too big and clumsy for the nimble netbook scene, Microsoft then backtracked on its end-of-life plans for XP and started making that available for netbook makers. Which led to suggestions that Linux on netbooks was a Windows killer.

Now that the market has settled down it’s reasonably clear that Windows will in all likelihood prove to be the more popular operating system on netbooks for at least the next couple of years. And if Windows lives up to expectations Linux may never gain a significant following on those machines.

But that’s not really the same as killing off Linux.

The truth is that Linux is now well-established in the market and is not likely to be killed off by a new Windows release. Just as Apple is unlikely to be killed off by Windows 7. In part because both these operating systems have their, often fanatical, advocates, users that would be unlikely to switch operating systems even if they were paid money to do so.

Instead of asking whether Windows 7 will kill off Linux users should be more interested in how successful Windows 7 will be in maintaining Microsoft’s operating system lead. Clearly Windows will remain dominant for many years to come, but if Windows 7 doesn’t deliver, as Vista didn’t, then Microsoft could see its market share diving over the coming years.

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Windows 7 a Linux killer?