Windows-free computing becomes a reality

Industry figures look to open source software as Microsoft begins PR buzz for next generation OS
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As the Windows 7 PR machine begins its awareness campaign, key industry players are predicting that open source rivals could begin to take serious market share away from Microsoft's dominant operating systems and Office software – potentially changing the face of the PC industry as we know it.

Leading the charge against Microsoft is industry stalwart IBM, which has recently claimed it wants to create 'Windows-free computing' by 2009.

"I think there is a high probability that Windows will become increasingly irrelevant," vice president for messaging and collaboration at IBM's Lotus division Kevin Cavanaugh (pictured) told PC Retail.

"Already we see people choosing not to upgrade to Vista and ditching Microsoft Office, in favour of Symphony or other open office alternatives. As devices change it will make the Windows operating system increasingly less relevant. You see that with people choosing the Mac as a solution; you see them choosing Linux based mobile devices as well."

IBM itself was instrumental in making Linux so prolific on the server market – and Cavanaugh was less than ambiguous on the firm's role in repeating that on a wider scale: "From this point of view IBM is a disruptive force in the marketplace. Most people don't think of IBM that way, they think of us in some cases as a supporter of the status quo.

"I think that's a misread of us; look at the disruption we did with Linux on servers. We're going to continue to do those disruptions where we think they’re in the interests of our customers."

Bobby Watkins from Acer, which offers open source Aspire One systems added: "More and more people are using the internet to look for information, to keep in touch, and to share content.

"This means the web becomes the primary interface of the system not Windows, so actually the job of the interface is to make accessing the web and all the other frequently used applications as simple as possible, and that is what we have aimed for and achieved on the Aspire One."

And it's not just vendors who have noticed the trend. As the demand for low cost PCs grows, retailers are finding themselves increasingly dealing with non-Microsoft systems – and many are predicting this to rise exponentially.

"We're about to see a huge explosion. Certainly I would expect the figures to at least double in the next 12 months," said Matthew Woolley, owner of PC Retail Award winner Forum Computers and chairman of trade body ITACS.

"I think in the next five years Microsoft will lose at least 30 per cent of its market. If it buries its head in the sand it's going to lose its market."

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