Linux vs Windows, the debate rages on

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Linux still isn't up to scratch as a viable alternative to Microsoft Windows on the desktop. These are the bold sentiments of Michael Gartenberg, a vice president and research director at JupiterResearch and our guest columnist.

Gartenberg's argument is that the Dell release of Ubuntu on the desktop offers less features and less support than the Microsoft counterpart. The product is also priced quite similar to the Windows option, with only $50 difference (about £26 but Michael is referring to the US pricing only) between them.

Gartenberg has a point. Vendors pushing open source solutions can't expect users to eschew Windows in favour of Linux, unless the operating system is designed with the average consumer in mind. We are talking the type of user that has never used, let alone heard of, a command line.

The Dell Ubuntu offering, as Dell even states, is really one that is suited for advanced users and tech enthusiastss. On Dell’s main page, pre-installed Windows is still the default option. The reference to the Ubuntu Linux offering is listed under 'product category' as 'Open-Source PCs'. Seriously, how many consumers know what 'open source' means?

However, Ubuntu, and the open source movement in general, has come along in leaps and bounds. In fact, while Gartenberg says that the search for an alternative to Microsoft is still going, I think Linux is closing the gap.

This is particularly true in Europe, where many governments are actively pushing away from Windows, to break Microsoft's monopoly in the desktop OS market. In September, Brussels-based Globalisation Institute urged the Commission to require that PCs and operating systems be sold separately in Europe.

Microsoft has also failed to overturn the European Commission's antitrust ruling, and been ordered to pay a $600 million fine. The EU court has told Microsoft to unbundle Windows Media Player into the Windows operating system, and reveal interoperability information to makers of server operating systems.

Whether the efforts of the European Commission will relax what some people see as a stranglehold, and lead to increased uptake of Linux or other Windows alternatives on the desktop, is still a matter of time will tell.

But, as long as Linux continues to innovate, and the open source community continues to develop applications that are user friendly, then the victor of the desktop war is still undecided.

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