Mark Shuttleworth Strikes the Right Tone On Windows 7
Some people are scratching their heads over recent Windows 7-related comments attributed to Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth. But Shuttleworth’s words provide an important reminder that innovation and competition from Microsoft will help to propel Ubuntu and Linux forward. Skeptical? Read on.
Speaking with The Register, Shuttleworth apparently gave Microsoft a pat on the back for its Windows 7 efforts, and he declined to bash the forthcoming successor to Windows Vista.
Was Shuttleworth really “praising” Windows 7? I think not. Rather, I think Shuttleworth was stating that healthy competition drives IT innovation. And an innovative, motivated Microsoft is good for Linux.
The Threat From Within
Indeed, the biggest threat to Linux is arrogance rather than Microsoft. I hear from more and more Ubuntu and Linux converts who say the operating system is now good enough for the masses.
In some cases that’s certainly true. My oldest sons (ages 10 and eight) made the leap to Ubuntu without any “training.” Their conversion occurred when I purchased a Dell desktop with Ubuntu in mid-2007. I didn’t mention that it wasn’t a Windows device. They immediately figured out Firefox and OpenOffice and were off to the races. No training. No hassle.
Still, Linux fans have to remember that the vast majority of consumers and small business owners still have never heard of the operating system. And if they are familiar with Linux, they consider it a server system for corporate IT managers. (And yes, Ubuntu itself is gaining a bit of momentum on servers, according to our WorksWithU 1000 research survey.)
Windows 7 Changes Everything
Now here’s the ironic twist: When Microsoft ships Windows 7 in late 2009 or early 2010, the news will actually raise Linux’s profile on desktops and netbooks.
As PC vendors evaluate Windows 7’s pricing, they’ll scour the market for lower-cost options or simply embrace Linux on a few systems to gain pricing leverage when they negotiate Windows 7 licensing terms with Microsoft.
Similarly, the mainstream media — yes, even outlets like The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek — will mention Linux alternatives as they review Windows 7. Trust me: this is going to happen.
Generally speaking, Windows 7’s launch will be an industry inflection point for customers. And when customers are trying to make a purchase/upgrade decision they consider multiple directions.
That’s good news for Ubuntu and the broader Linux desktop movement, and Shuttleworth knows it. Today, he’s killing Microsoft with kindness. But when Windows 7 arrives, I’m sure he’ll strike a much more aggressive tone.