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LinuxPlanet: Editor's Note: Reinventing the Wheel, Openly

Jan 16, 2001, 20:18 (79 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Kevin Reichard)

"In the Open Source ethos, there is a tendency to a) eschew commercial-software developers and b) assume that the Open Source community can work together to create software that is just as good as commercial-software offerings."

"I won't go into why a) is true (free beer! free beer! free beer!), but I will try and explain here why b) is a dangerous assumption -- one that could truly threaten the future of Linux and Open Source, especially when it comes to Linux as a desktop operating system...."

"This is going to be heresy to many readers, but there's nothing in the Linux world that works as well as Microsoft Word when it comes to corporate-level word processing. WordPerfect comes close, though both the native Linux version and the version running under WINE are a little too flaky and pokey for my tastes, and there's a lot to like about the word processor within Applixware Office. (Note, however, that a Linux version and an Open Source version are two different things, and that neither Applixware Office nor WordPerfect are Open Source products.) Heck, I'd even settle for something that's the equivalent of the original XyWrite. There's nothing in Open Source software that works as well as these commercial products."

"This, I would argue, is why Linux is still largely a failure as a desktop operating system. Yes, as an OS, Linux is more stable than Windows 98/2000, and it's just about as easy to use as the Macintosh. But applications drive the market, and until there's a compelling reason to use Linux on the desktop, it will remain a fringe desktop OS. (This is the same reason why Solaris on the desktop failed, by the way.) Linux's future as a server OS remains solid thanks to the many splendid server applications (Apache, Oracle 9i, et al), but if we want to see Linux break through as a viable desktop OS, the Open Source world needs to realize that commercial software is not an evil thing to be derided or ignored. Heed the lessons of OS/2: in the absence of a killer application, it doesn't matter whether an OS like OS/2 is certifiably better than the status-quo Windows."

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