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Editor's Note: 63,000 Bugs and Counting
War Is Over, If You Want It
February 17, 2000
Tuning in CNN in the wee hours of the morning, I was privileged to catch a report from the CNN London bureau about the inevitability of Windows 2000 becoming the corporate standard in the next few years. Relying heavily on the opinions of a single analyst--someone from the Gartner Group, which tends to shill heavily for Microsoft--the reporter proclaimed that despite the presence of 63,000 bugs in the code, Windows 2000 was sure to do well.
A few years ago, Windows 2000 would have done well. At that time Microsoft possessed the keys to the kingdom and was the only serious player in the operating-system world. With the UNIX community seriously fragmented and Apple in a state of confusion, Microsoft could have pounced on the confusion and pushed the envelope with some cutting-edge OS design.
So what happened? Microsoft lost focus, deciding that it wanted to conquer the Internet via the consumer side, when in fact the business side was where the action is. MSN, MSNBC, Sidewalk, Carpoint, Slate...all these represented serious departures from Microsoft's position as a provider of tools. Yes, being a content provider is a whole lot sexier than being the assistant product manager for Personal Web Server, but in the long run Microsoft's success hinges far more on tools like PWS than Web sites like Slate.
So Microsoft managed to muck up one of the best brand names in the world by trying to become all things to all people. And that's why I'm not sensing that the release of Windows 2000 is any big deal. Except for a banner at my wife's office building -- where a banner over the front entrance from a law firm welcomed the release of Windows 2000 -- there has been remarkably little public reaction that I can see to the Windows 2000 release. (I wonder if the lawyers were excited about the release of Windows 2000 because it's great technology or because the 63,000 bugs represent a huge liability to be exploited in court.)
And there's one other important thing to realize: everyone knows Windows 2000 sucks. I've been a beta tester for Windows 2000 for years now--even before the product wore the proud moniker of Windows 2000--and I've never had the courage to load Windows 2000 betas on production machines, preferring instead to test Windows 2000 on isolated PCs. I never managed to do any real work on a Windows 2000 machine. Sure, I would play around and test it out to an extent, but when a late beta of Windows 2000 managed to crash repeatedly while in the middle of Solitaire, I knew the OS was doomed.
So what does this mean for Linux? Realistically, it shouldn't mean a darn thing. One of the more refreshing things about many of the members of the Linux community is a shared devotion to making Linux the best OS possible, no matter what other folks are doing. True, there are partisans out there whose hate for Microsoft far exceeds their love of Linux. But in the end, there are still many battles to be fought. We've won this round, so let's move on quickly and keep making Linux the best OS we possibly can.