The general opinion about Microsoft among computer users of all types, save those employed by Microsoft, is the company makes inferior products and distastefully dominates every market they have established a presence in.  Up until a couple of years ago, PC users who expressed that narrow-minded belief could only complain, buy a computer from Apple, beat their hairy chests in frustration while cooking the large woodland animal they just killed over an open flame, or dive head first into uncharted Linux territory.  Linux and Unix, in its various flavors, have been around for years, much longer than Windows.  If age were enough to establish dominance in a consumer market life would be very different.  Now back to reality, Linux only had one gigantic gap to fill: Make something that the general population could not only setup and configure on their own with relative ease but also still use in their daily lives like Microsoft had done in 1992 with Windows 3.1.

Windows

From a consumer perspective, Microsoft had the right idea starting with the conception of the Windows operating system.  Windows was the easiest to setup, configure and use while also accessible to the general population (for a price) and the most visually impressive for its time.  A user also had the choice to buy their hardware from various vendors which provided options for price, style, and components.  Microsoft’s key advantage was, and still mostly is, their business model.  That is, Windows has teams of paid, full-time developers creating it since its conception whereas the core of Linux is greatly maintained by developers world-wide that often receive little, if any, compensation for their efforts.  As a result, Windows has consistency among it’s components and complete packages through all it’s versions and the only major change to it’s user interface was between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.

Ubuntu

It is important know where Linux comes from to understand what versions of it, commonly referred to as flavors or distributions, like Ubuntu, have accomplished.  Nearly two decades after Windows’ release a Linux-based PC operating system has grasped sufficiently the ease of setup and use that Microsoft unleashed on the public.  The foundation or core of Linux, called the kernel, only started to come together shortly before the first release of Windows.  Ubuntu was first released in 2004.  Today, Ubuntu is partly maintained and sponsored by Conical Ltd., other components of Ubuntu are maintained by a vast amount of community developers.  To users, this means that using, copying, and sharing Ubuntu is completely free.  Conical generates revenue from Ubuntu mainly by paid technical support.  This distribution can do everything Windows can right out of the box and is just as, if not more, intuitive than Windows.  A poll done in 2006 on the DesktopLinux.com (1999-2010) website indicates that out of all Linux users who completed the poll 29.2% of them use Ubuntu or it’s variants (Kubuntu and Ebubuntu).

Aside from the points about each operating system already defined both of them have clear strengths and weaknesses versus one another, even Apple computers and Mac OS have their strengths over PCs.  Windows, for example, mainly because of it’s consumer market domination, owns the personal computer gaming market.  Popular, full-fledged PC games on the market that don’t have a Windows version simply do not exist.  This is most likely the strongest single point that keeps young adults, who may know nothing about a free operating system with software like Ubuntu, from making the switch from Windows to Ubuntu.  PlayOnLinux, a front-end for wine geared toward trying to bridge the gap between PC games and the Linux OS, is fantastic but requires a little work sometimes.  For the average user who wants to browse the Internet, write e-mail, watch movies, listen to music or use productivity software the choice could easily be the one that costs nothing (Linux/Ubuntu).  For novice users it is possible that finding friends or family members to help them with a computer problem may be easier with Windows.  However, with Ubuntu (and even Windows), a little typing about the problem into a web browser supplies thousands of solutions from other users, developers and professionals who run into the same issues.

To identify positive traits and strengths in everything, one must also be able to identify drawbacks and weak points that a single entity shares.  This is not pessimism, it is objective evaluation.  Windows clearly has all the features of an operating system one could need for a price and Ubuntu has all those same features but on occasion one may have to dig a little to obtain them.  Each operating system has their own place depending on what they need to be used for.

References

DesktopLinux.com. (1999-2010). Desktop Linux Polls. Retrieved from http://www.desktoplinux.com/cgi-bin/survey/survey.cgi?view=archive&id=0821200617613