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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

A Pointless Debate

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Slashdot points us to a paper by Harvard professors attempting to answer whether Linux will ever be able to beat Windows. A formal mathematical model is followed in which the mixed duopoly of for profit software vs free software is examined. The result is rather predictable: Linux cannot win over Microsoft. The reason being that Microsoft has an first mover advantage in terms of installed base and market share. The paper (pdf) and the interview both provide very solid reasoning.

But there is one critical flaw in the model. It assumes that Microsoft as a company will be there forever. The basic theories of economics teaches us otherwise. There are always four phases of a company: embryonic, growth, consolidation and decline. This has been the case with each company and will be the case with Microsoft as well. And the spectre of this happening sooner is looming large with the impending rollout of Windows Vista. There is a genuine concern that Vista might fail in the marketplace.

By the same reasoning, even Linux will not be the predominant Open Source OS in the long run. Although its not driven by any company as such, it will be gradually replace with newer OS's as hardware becomes more and more complex and desktops receede from prominence. Whem pervasive mobile computing devices become commonplace, the embedded OS's would rule. On the servers asl well new OS technologies will come up and replace the existing ones. Afterall nothing is really permatnent.

Given all these factors, I wonder how important is the question itself. Both Linux and Windows have their own place right now. And Linux is rightly gaining in the desktop market. Does it really matter if it never becomes the numero uno? I dont think so.

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posted by Rajiv, 8:43 AM

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