Upcoming Desktop Battle: Windows 2010 vs. Mac Leopard vs. Linux

Each platform has its strengths and its weaknesses as the looming battle for market share shapes up.
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Windows Vista didn’t turn out particularly well and even though it is strengthening, and Microsoft’s numbers have reflected this strength, it is slated for replacement in 2009/10 according to Microsoft. Leopard, which has been delayed until late this year largely to get it up to adequate quality for a true Windows replacement product, will be at its strongest when this new version of Windows comes out. And Linux, now with Dell’s support, is gaining momentum and, with Oracle now in the mix, is likely to go through some consolidation (in terms of the number of distributions above noise level) by this time. It will be a much stronger competitor as well.

Let’s take a look at this future battle. I won’t be calling winners and losers, but will be pointing out the key things to look for to call this fight early.

Windows 2010

Windows Vista is a major OS release, the first that has attempted to do both corporate and consumer desktops at the same time since Windows 95. Given that, it is actually surprising how well it has done, because technology has changed a lot in the last 10 years and this was a long dry spell between major releases. Still, because it is a major release, IT is understandably a little leery of the platform. We have yet to see anything that looks like a major implementation wave in business.

Windows 2010 (for lack of a better name like Vista 2, Vista’s Revenge, or Return of Vista) will be the maintenance release for this platform, and Microsoft has completely revamped their OS team to bring it out. Mostly due to tuning and cleanup, this product will likely be less supportive of pre-Vista applications and be better tuned for hardware changes like hybrid-hard drives and Intel’s Robson then Vista was. Slated to be ideal on AMD’s new Fusion platform, which is being developed along with Windows 2010, this product will likely define the desktop from 2010 to 2015.

This will represent the strongest offering Microsoft will have for desktop hardware. Office 2010 will be optimized for it, which is different than Office 2007 and Vista today. Indications for adoption, if the product is successful, should start showing up in late 2008 as budgets get set to deploy the product early in companies; this will likely include a large number of companies that weren’t interested in, or able to deploy, Vista. Any major slide in market share ramping up to the Windows 2010 launch would indicate the market was looking elsewhere for their new platform. The result would do Microsoft massive financial damage.

We will begin to get a feeling for the changes in the product at TechEd this year but probably won’t get a real sense until the same show in 2008, when product specifications are likely to be more certain. This a keystone product for Microsoft and if they lose too much market share it could spell a decline for the company. But if the market likes it, it could also shore up the firm, ensuring its continued survival, if not prosperity, for another 5 years.

MacOS Leopard

While this is a “point” release and due out in October this year, the product is undergoing a massive change primarily to improve its Windows interoperability. This is Apple’s strongest push onto the business desktop since Steve Jobs has been running the company.


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