The Exigent Duality
Windows' Days Are Numbered - 16:23 CDT, 6/14/18 (Sniper)
I've been tinkering with GNU/Linux off-and-on since 1996, and have been using it as a full-time operating system since at least 2005. Until very recently, Windows felt like the first-class citizen on PC: it had all of the major software, and everything more or less "just worked". On the flip-side of that, I had to make major (early on) and minor (more recently) sacrifices to avoid using it.

I booted into it yesterday for the first time in months, and was couldn't get over how clunky and unfinished it felt. Patching Arch takes like two minutes-- patching Windows took over an hour, and required four reboots! Meanwhile, the "start" menu and task bar kept freezing, the screen was flickering, and so on. Then I had fits and starts trying to get my TV working-- something which "just works" on Arch, with Nvidia's drivers.

On the software front, many of the applications which I know and love-- Emacs, the bash shell, and LibreOffice among them-- are either totally hackish, not readily available, or really slow running compared to how they work under my preferred operating system.

In general, it felt like a total role reversal: I was booting into the second class citizen, just to run one stinking game! And that's when it really hit me: why in the world hasn't Microsoft ditched Windows yet, and just made it into a GNU/Linux distribution, like when Apple ditched the "old" Mac OS and went with their fully Unix-like, POSIX-compliant NeXT/BSD direction?

  • In 2000, 53% of Microsoft's income came from Windows all by itself. In 2017, their entire personal computing division only accounted for 43% of their revenue, while shrinking year-on-year three straight times. Meanwhile, their subscription services and cloud offerings increased by a whopping 15% and 10% respectively, year-on-year. At some point, having an entire division just to maintain a proprietary operating system won't be worth it anymore.

  • Windows desktop market share is slowly but surely shrinking. On the world's leading cloud provider, Amazon, Windows has only 7.9% of the images. GNU/Linux? Literally the other 92.1%!

  • I read some anecdotal accounts from Microsoft's most recent "Build" conference which remarked at how little mention there was of Windows. Rather, the whole thing was almost exclusively cloud-centric. As I showed above, that's where the money is for Microsoft, and that trend is only going to accelerate.

  • I was at a conference recently where a Microsoft employee was complaining about the fact that the loaner laptop the company had given him was running Windows, instead of his usual GNU/Linux; yes, many employees right in Microsoft's headquarters run GNU/Linux on their work desktops now.

  • Every single developer presentation I can remember from the past several years has seen the presenter running the Unix/Linux-like, POSIX-compliant macOS. As for server development, according to Stack Overflow 48.3% of developers did development with GNU/Linux this past year, versus only 35.4% with Windows.

  • Speaking from personal experience, today's ubiqitious development tools such as Git and Node have Windows support as almost an afterthought-- they are a total pain in the rear to run in Microsoft's operating system. I recently ran IntelliJ's "IDEA" on Windows, and it kept yelling at me about the case-insensitive file system. Hadoop and Spark development under Windows is basically impossible. Whereas on GNU/Linux, all of those things are first class citizens, and it takes seconds or minutes to get them running.

  • Microsoft has already developed their own GNU/Linux distribution, called "Azure Sphere". They are already contributing to kernel development, because it helps interoperability between GNU/Linux and Azure. Why not double-up the benefits of that investment, versus constantly re-inventing the wheel with their proprietary Windows?

  • Wine can run almost anything now-- it's even getting sophisticated Vulkan support! In Microsoft's new "Windows"-- which will just be GNU/Linux, with a Windows 10-lookalike desktop manager-- users will still be able to double-click on their Win32 programs, and they'll still run just like before. Microsoft would just re-brand Wine with a corporate-friendly name, like "Application Fabric for Win32", or something.


Because of all of this, I wouldn't be surprised if, in the next two-to-five years, Microsoft made the big announcement: "The next generation of Windows is here: Windows Infinity! Powered by Linux."

That would be followed by a presentation laying out how common-sensical it is. Then all of the traditional Windows blowhards who have always laughed at GNU/Linux users will suddenly nod in group think agreement-- "of course, I've been advocating for this for years!"