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Why Do People Keep Using Windows?

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Nov 28, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year here in the U.S., and that means the holiday season is thick upon us once again.

Why Do People Keep Using Windows?

We *could* buckle down and get working on all those holiday shopping lists, but it's not difficult to think of countless ideas that would be a whole lot more fun.

Take a good, old-fashioned debate, for example -- about operating systems, no less!

Thank goodness for the team over at Slashdot, because that's just the conversation that's been raging there recently, to the tune of almost 2,000 comments.

Forget holiday shopping, ladies and gentlemen -- it's Windows vs. Macs vs. Linux for yet another round. No fistfights have broken out in the Linux blogosphere yet, but it may just be a matter of time.

'What Would It Take to Switch?'

"Distributions like Ubuntu and CentOS have made GNU/Linux more friendly," the Slashdot introduction reads. "Options for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. have grown. Apple and their products have changed considerably, though their philosophy hasn't.

"Microsoft Silverlight came and is on the way out. Wine and solutions like Transgaming have matured," it continues. "So... why are a lot of us still using Windows? What would it take for us to switch?"

What could only be described as a mass stampede to the comments section followed immediately afterward as bloggers from every platform rushed in to have their say.

'Adobe Software and Games'

"Not enough money to switch to a Mac," quipped Anonymous Coward at the head of the line.

"Adobe software and games -- that's about it," offered Etylowy. "Sadly Gimp is no replacement for Photoshop at this point."

Similarly, "just games," chimed in mcvos. "I don't know much about Adobe software, but there's plenty available for Mac. For games, however, Windows is still the leading platform."

'I Like Windows. So Sue Me.'

Then again, "at home: nothing," wrote moongate. "At work: my boss."

Alternatively, "I like Windows (Windows 7 is almost godly perfect for me), I hate OSX with a passion but unfortunately I need to use it at work," countered El Lobo. "I have 3 Linux servers that I use because of price reasons. On the desktop, I don't look for anything else at the moment. I like the 'Windows 7 experience': it's stable, fast, reliable, most software runs on it. So, sue me."

Opinions spanned the spectrum, in other words, so Linux Girl knew it was time to learn more down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin Saloon. Why *do* any of us keep using Windows?

'The Tar-Pit Known as Vista'

"As always, the answer is games," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told Linux Girl.

"Anything else I want to run will run at worst on Windows in a virtual machine, but that's totally unacceptable for gaming," Espinoza explained. "Pretty much none of the games I want to play work under Wine, and even if they do this week, they probably won't next week, so why bother?"

Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site, had a longer list of reasons: drivers, Windows-only software, and multiplatform testing.

"For years, I went without a copy of Windows running," Hudson told Linux Girl. "Then I bought a laptop with 'the tar-pit known as Vista' -- I needed a Windows machine to pull some video from my camcorder. After that, the laptop sat unused for about 8 months, until I put in a second hard disk and installed Linux."

'It Does the Job'

Later, Hudson bought a multifunction color laser printer that "said on the box, 'Windows, OSX, Linux," she explained. "The box might support Linux if I physically sat the computer on top of it, but the printer sure doesn't. So, Vista became my printer driver."

A bit later, "I got the yen to revisit the SimCity series," she recalled. "Back to Windows ... and the updates to Vista had by then made it half-decent. Those old games really take on new life in 1920x1200 resolution on a 26" screen and newer hardware."

Throw in some Flash development and some browser compatibility testing, and it's "back to Windows," Hudson explained. "And now, with the latest patches, lo and behold, Vista runs just fine as long as I give it a couple of minutes to 'stabilize' after logging in."

Windows "still isn't attractive as a primary work environment, or even for day-to-day use, but for what I use it for, it does the job 'good enough,' which, considering the lack of alternatives, is 'good enough,'" she concluded.

'We Lack Software'

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack is also mostly on Linux, but he keeps "one Windows machine around for the ATT Connect Participant software I need for one of my online classes," he told Linux Girl. "I tried Wine, but it really didn't work at all."

At church, "I have a machine I maintain that is stuck on Windows because there just isn't a good FOSS replacement for EZ Worship," he added. Meanwhile, "my father is stuck on Windows because there isn't a good replacement for AutoCad.

"We are at the point where Linux is easily installed by a beginner without ever needing to see a command line, but we lack software," Mack concluded.

'It Is Always Something'

For Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, however, no Linux distro has yet passed his "'is it safe?' test," he told Linux Girl.

"My 'is it safe' test simulates what my customer would go through if they had bought a Linux PC from me and kept it for a few years, and sadly, they ALL fail," he added.

"Just download ANY distro from 3 years ago (this is less than half what Windows gives you as far as support goes, so I'm already cutting Linux a BIG break) and make sure all the drivers work," hairyfeet explained. "If this takes CLI to get it set? So be it.

"Now here is the tricky part: update it to current and see how much stuff breaks," he said. "I have yet to have a distro not leave me with one if not multiple broken drivers, video, sound, wireless, networking -- it is always something."

'Newer Hardware Has Issues'

Indeed, hardware compatibility, software compatibility and the fact that Windows comes preinstalled on most computers are all reasons people stick with it, according to Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

"Linux works great on older machines," Lim explained. "Newer hardware has issues. Same thing with printers and some other peripherals. They will work, but not necessarily with 100 percent of the available features."

Most hardware manufacturers, in other words, "simply don't build with Linux in mind," Lim opined.

'Linux Comes in Third'

Power management for laptops is "still not up to snuff" with Linux, Lim added, while "on the software side, you can run Windows software on Linux using WINE, but it is still not the same as being able to download an installer or stick in a DVD and clicking 'install.'"

Windows is "essentially 'free,'" he asserted. "For the user, it is already installed on the computer they buy, and in most places you cannot un-install Windows and get a rebate. And Windows machines actually do work pretty well. If they did not, all the big companies would be on Macs."

In the end, "when you look at the 'it just works' metric from a user's standpoint, Windows scores highest, Mac OSX a far second and Linux comes in third," Lim concluded.

'They Feel Comfortable With Windows'

Not everyone saw it that way, however.

"Nothing is keeping me on Windows," asserted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. "I only use it when a customer requires it."

Customers, however, "may be stuck on Windows for a few reasons," Travers explained. "The big ones are vertical applications for managing businesses or doing certain tasks -- yes, I'd include Photoshop here. Another reason might be games."

For most, though, the biggest reason is comfort, he suggested.

"They feel comfortable with Windows and don't want to use something else," Travers concluded. "That's something that will take a lot of time to turn around, I am afraid."

'I Don't Do Windows!'

Last but not least, educator and blogger Robert Pogson was unequivocal in his views.

"I DON'T DO WINDOWS!" Pogson exclaimed.

"There certainly was nothing keeping me with it after my first experience with GNU/Linux 11 years ago in my classroom," he explained. "GNU/Linux gave me software that worked for me.

"In those days, I had a personal computer running that Other OS, but Fate caused it to be dropped on the runway," Pogson added. "With it died my last use of that other OS and Comanche.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

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