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Editor's Note: Microsoft Supports Linux! (Sort Of)

Moving Applications to the Web

June 30, 2000

It is the assumption of many hardcore Linux fans that the future of Linux lies in competing effectively with Microsoft on the desktop. Hence the literally hundreds of developers working on KDE, GNOME, and the accompanying applications.

I am not so sure, at least in the short term. Yes, to ensure the immediate survival of Linux, these desktop environments and applications are essential. Linux has reached a critical mass because of strength both on the server and desktop environments, and to continue that growth we need to ensure that the average user doesn't lose any functionality when moving from Windows or Macs to Linux.

Long term, however, I don't see applications as being all that important--and that feeling was (curiously) reinforced by Microsoft when it announced the Microsoft.Net initiative.

Yes, I know that Microsoft.Net is short on specifics and long on spin, but the basic thrust of the intiative--that in the future applications will be run from a Web browser and essentially live on the network, not on the local machine--is sound.

Now, for those of us who have charted the rise of Web-based application servers and seen services like ThinkFree Office hit the Web, this paradigm shift is obvious.

For Microsoft to admit that they're moving applications to the Web in the manner of ThinkFree Office means that the paradigm shift is already underway: Microsoft follows the market, and this means that the muckerty-mucks at Microsoft know that the future lies in Web-enabled applications.

It also signals the death knell for Windows. Let's face it: if you were doing some mission-critical work via a Web browser and needed an OS that provided a high level of reliability, which would you choose: Linux or Windows? There's just no comparison.

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