Linux: You Get What You Paid For (When You Bought Windows)

If you've been an Open Source advocate for any significant amount of time, you've no doubt heard someone say, with a sneer in their voice, "You get what you pay for". Let it be noted, I really hate that cliche. It does make me think, however, about what you really get when you purchase the license to use a commercial operating system like Windows or OSX. Here are some things the operating systems themselves offer for the money:

What Windows & OSX Provide

  • Consistent interface
  • Standard API interfaces
  • System updates, at least for a significant amount of time
  • Rudimentary applications (Safari, IE, Wordpad, Textedit)
  • Tech support (often additional cost though)

There are many other "features" that get attributed to Windows and OSX, but I don't think it's fair they get all the credit. Sure, there are more drivers and more commercial software available -- but that's really the doing of vendors, not the OS manufacturers. With the advent of Vista and its hornet's nest of problems, really the only thing Microsoft has going for them is market share. And cash.

What happens when hardware vendors start installing OEM versions of Linux on more hardware? It's already begun, and although it's happening slowly, it is happening. Think about the advantages OEM vendors have when they choose Linux:

Linux Advantages for OEMs

  • I assumed it was obvious Linux offers everything from the above list, but there was confusion, so please note that I do understand Linux offers everything listed above. Except maybe a consistent interface, but that's another article altogether
  • Free, enterprise grade software bundles
  • No need for bundled crapware trial software to offset licensing costs of the OS
  • Virus & Spyware resistance.
  • Compiz? :)

There are some issues regarding the installation of proprietary codecs, Flash, MP3 support, etc -- but I'm sure that could be easily scripted into the initial setup process. I know that installing a fully functional Linux OS is no longer difficult.

I'm excited about the future of Linux. Yes, the competition has mountains of cash. Yes, they have an astronomical installed user base. Yes they work hard to protect their interests in proprietary hardware support. But we're patient. We're smart. We have nothing to lose, and what we do have, we're giving away.

It's a good time to be a Linux user.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing. You can contact Shawn via e-mail, ljeditor@linuxjournal.com.

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