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Windows is Dead

Week of May 5, 2002
'Microsoft Windows isn't dead, it just smells bad.'
  -- F Zappa

Windows is dead. And if it isn't dead, it should be, and it soon will be. And it sure smells bad too.

This week brought the death blow. After an article at News Forge, Wall-Mart PC supplier Microtel took their godawful Winmodem out of Wal-Mart's Windowsless computers and replaced it with a real one. And now real computer enthusiasts can buy their computers at Wal-Mart and they won't have to run a Windows operating system, they will be able to run a real one. And News Forge has encouraged all their readers to buy their hardware from Wal-Mart so the idea catches on.

Wal-Mart is poking a sharp stick right between Bill Gates' eyes, a sharp stick that can turn into a wedge that undermines Microsoft's vise-like OEM agreements. If sales of Wal-Mart PCs take off, the other department stores will have to do the same thing, and then so will the PC stores, and guess what? They'll all be making more money than ever. Hey it's easy to sell and it's so so easy to shop, first you go over here and pick out your PC (they're all compatible with all our operating systems), and then you come over here and you pick out your operating system - we recommend Lycoris, Mandrake and SuSE - then you go home and install it, or if you want, we can have a technician do it for you, but you don't really need to have someone else do it, it's really that easy, and you'll be online within an hour.

And they will be, these 'lusers' - these former lusers - who suddenly are getting the smarts. And hey, where's Ctrl-Alt-Delete? And hey hey hey but I don't have to pay for updates any more - I download them for free!

Oh yeah, there'll be new hardware stuff all the time, and Harry and Harriet will be out buying it. Retail will do really good on this one. In fact, the only one who won't do good is Bill Gates. Bill Gates could very well turn into a dime a dozen millionaire in the new few years.

His empire has had it.

And that's where it all ends, right? Now we can all take out our timers and watch the final minutes of the Redmond Kingdom, right?

If only it were. Bill Gates has been coming from behind all his life to stay in front. He nearly lost the PC compiler market (now there are no competitors at all), he nearly lost the browser market (now there are no competitors at all), he nearly lost the database market (now there are no competitors at all), and so forth and so on.

If puny little Red Hat can turn a profit with 'free software', who says Microsoft can't? Put on the same running track, what is Red Hat next to Microsoft? How many programmers does Red Hat have? How many tens of thousands does Microsoft have? And Microsoft - as has been pointed out so many times in these pages - is not exactly known for its big names and its innovations, but they do have a few notables quietly hanging about up there.

What if the world turns upside down tonight for no apparent reason, and in the morning every programmer in Redmond Wash is suddenly good? It can happen. Maybe not that fast, but if anyone can make it happen, Bill Gates can.

For who's to say Bill is not poised right now with an open source initiative of his own? Microsoft is good at working with the code of others - this is their golden opportunity. Microsoft is currently putting the screws on schools and charities left and right, and Bill surely realises that once he takes the plunge he can never go back again - that is, unless he plans on competing with himself. So maybe his ego is the biggest obstacle at the moment - opening his source, after his life-long campaign against software piracy, has to be tantamount to IBM creating a PC with an open architecture.

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