"Windows won the war for the desktop. But there's a new struggle
over operating systems embedded in everyday objects, and this time
free software has the inside track."
"Say the word "computer" and most people think of the machine on
their desktop?a machine they love, hate, or a little of both. But
that notion of computer is going the way of the Univac: less than
one-tenth of one percent of all computing devices today have Intel
inside, or run Windows. The computers that are having the biggest
impact on our lives are the ones embedded in thousands of pieces of
equipment that surround us every day. These are the devices that
tell our antilock brakes when to unlock. They manage factory
automation systems. They tell Tickle Me Elmo when he's being
tickled. Soon they will allow our home appliances to diagnose their
own malfunctions, and will even call and order their own
replacement parts before they fail. These new computers will
eventually make a stand-alone desktop system look as anachronistic
as the vacuum tube."
"But the little smart machines infiltrating our surroundings
lack one thing that has made desktop computing so?well, so
ordinary. The missing piece is a dominant operating system. Many
contenders are already battling for dominance, and it looks as
though the proponents of open-source software have a chance to
vanquish Microsoft. In some respects, though, the future of
"ubiquitous computing," in which computing power is found in the
common objects that pervade our environment, depends less on the
particular winner of this battle than on there simply being a
winner at all: a common standard that everyone can agree on"
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