GNU/Linux Desktop: The Case Against Running Windows Apps: Page 3

Posted February 26, 2008

Bruce Byfield

Bruce Byfield

(Page 3 of 3)

Even more importantly, software vendors like Adobe are proverbially suspicious of the GNU/Linux model. While they are willing to provide free players that encourage the use of their other products, such as Acrobat and Flash, many vendors remain convinced that no one using the platform will pay for a commercial app -- despite the example of Oracle, or high-end software like Maya or Houdini. With this mindset, most vendors will probably need a large market share before they would even consider developing native versions.

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What's more, at this point, this assumption has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the absence of commercial applications, the GNU/Linux community has developed its own solutions. Ten years ago, the release of a native version of QuarkXPress would have been greeted in many circles with yelps of glee. Now, GNU/Linux users interested in desktop publishing are using Scribus, and many would greet a native version of QuarkXpress with massive yawns. The desktop vendors had their chance to develop for the platform, and have already lost it through their own timidity.

Other priorities

However, the most telling argument against running Windows apps is that they are proprietary. While many users reluctantly use proprietary tools when free ones don't exist, few actually want to encourage the practice. For many users, GNU/Linux isn't just an operating system. It's also an alternative way of interacting with computers and the Internet -- a statement in favor of free speech and consumer rights. No matter how necessary proprietary apps may sometimes be, doing so is a stopgap measure, not an end in itself, and many do not want to encourage it. In fact, a sizable number of users seem willing to use free software even if it is mildly inferior to proprietary equivalents. To such an audience, running Windows programs is an option that holds little appeal.

Google doesn't take second place to anyone in its support of free software. Its Summer of Code alone, to say nothing of the other projects and conferences it has sponsored, makes that clear. But in this one instance, its contribution needs to be reconsidered.

If Google or any other company wants to accelerate the use of GNU/Linux, then a better approach might be to fund one of the Free Software Foundation's high-priority projects. These are projects that working to fill the actual gaps on the free desktop, and they are truer to the spirit with which the operating system was developed in the first place. They deserve support far more than any effort to run increasingly redundant Windows programs.

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Tags: Linux, Microsoft, virtualization, VMware, GNU/Linux

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