Skip to comments.Ubuntu 12.04 vs. Windows 8: Five points of comparison
Posted on 05/08/2012 8:54:21 AM PDT by ShadowAce
Summary: The leading Linux desktop and the number one desktop of all, Windows, are both undergoing radical transformations, but which will be the better for it?
2012 has already seen a major update of whats arguably the most important Linux desktop: Ubuntu 12.04 and were also seeing the most radical update of Windows with Windows 8 Metro coming since Windows 95 replaced Windows 3.1. So, which will end up the better for its change?
1. Desktop interface
Ubuntu replaced the popular GNOME 2.x interface with Unity when their developers decided the GNOME 3.x shell wasnt for them. Some people, like the developers behind Linux Mint, decided to recreate the GNOME 2.x desktop with Cinnamon, but Ubuntu took its own path with Unity.
In Unitys desktop geography, your most used applications are kept in the left Unity Launcher bar on the left. If you need a particular application or file, you use Unitys built-in Dash application. Dash is a dual purpose desktop search engine and file and program manager that lives on the top of the Unity menu Launcher.
Its drawback, for Ubuntu power-users, is that it makes it harder to adjust Ubuntus settings manually. On the other hand, most users, especially ones who are new to Ubuntu, find it very easy to use. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has made it clear that regardless of whether you use Ubuntu on a desktop, tablet or smartphone the Unity interface is going to be there and its going to look the same.
A first look at Ubuntu 12.04 (Gallery)
Windows 8 Metro is, if anything, even more of a departure from its predecessor than Unity. At least with Unity, youre still working with a windows, icons, menus, and pointers (WIMP). Metro has replaced icons with tiles. In addition, by default, you can only work with applications in tiles or in full-screen format. Even such familiar friends as the Start button are missing.
Ive been working with Metro for months now. After all that time, I still think Windows 8 with Metro will be dead on arrival. Even people who really like Metro say things like the default presentation is ugly and impersonal. You can make Metro a lot more usable, but thats a lot of work to make an interface thats already ugly prettier and, when youre done, youre still left with an interface that doesnt look or work the way youve been using Windows for years.
True, theres also the Windows 8 Desktop, which still doesnt have a Start button, but otherwise looks and works like the Windows 7 Aero interface, but its a sop to users who dont want Metro. Sooner rather than later, Microsoft wants everyone on Metro. Of course on some platforms, such as Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 for ARM tablets, Metro is the only choice.
For ages one of the bogus raps against desktop Linux has been that there hasnt been enough applications for it. That was never true. What Linux didnt have was the same applications as Windows. To an extent, thats still true. You cant still get say Quicken, Outlook, or Photoshop natively on Linux. Of course, with the use of WINE and its commercial big brother Codeweavers Crossover, you can run these, and other Windows programs, on top of Linux.
On the other hand, I find some Linux programs, such as Evolution for e-mail, an optional program in Ubuntu, to be far better than their Windows equivalents. In addition, if like more and more people these days the program you really use all the time is a Web browser for everything then Windows has no advantage what-so-ever. Chrome, as my testing has shown time and again, is the best Web browser around runs equally well on Ubuntu and Windows. On both, however, youll need to download it. Ubuntu defaults to using Firefox and Windows 8, of course, uses Internet Explorer.
What I find really interesting though is that Microsoft is actually removing functionality from Windows 8. If you want to play DVDs on Windows 8 or use it as a media center, youll need to play extra. DVD-players and the power to stream media remain free options in Ubuntu and most other Linux distributions.
There has been a lot of talk lately about malware on Macs and its true. Macs are vulnerable to security breeches. So, for that matter, are Linux systems. But never, ever forget that for every single Mac virus or worm, there have been thousands of Windows attackers. And, that while Linux can be attacked as well, in practice, it more secure than either Mac OS X or Windows and there has never been a significant Linux desktop security worm.
Could it happen? Sure. But, get real, I do run Linux with virus protection, ClamAV, but Im paranoid, and even so Ive never seen a single attacker, much less suffered a successful attack, in almost twenty years of using Linux desktops. I wish I could say the same of my Windows systems.
4. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Thanks for Active Directory (AD), its long been easy to manage Windows desktops, but then thanks to Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and tools like Landscape, its no problem in Ubuntu Linux either. Indeed, since you wont be able to use AD to manage Windows RT systems, Ubuntu Linux actually provides a more unified management system.
Also, remember what I said about security? You cant forget anti-virus software or patching Windows for a minute. Linux? Yes, you should use anti-virus programs and patch regularly, but relax, youre not asking for zero-day doom all the time the way you are with Windows.
Besides, the upfront cost of Linux? Zero. Windows 8? We dont know yet, but we do know that Windows 8 PCs will be more expensive than their Windows 7 brothers.
If youre really serious about cutting your desktop costs, Linux is the way to go.
5. Ease of use
One of the perpetual myths about Linux is how hard it is to use. Oh really? Dont tell my 80-year old Ubuntu-using mother-in-law or Jason Perlows Linux user mom-in-law. Theyre both using Ubuntu 12.04 and loving it. Why? Because its so easy to use.
Metro, on the other hand well you know I dont like it, but I think its telling that a Bing search-not Google, Bing-showed 3.32-million results for Windows 8 Metro sucks. Many users, including our own Scott Raymond, would like it if Microsoft gave users the option to turn Metro off. Thats not going to happen.
Another plus for Ubuntu is, say you really cant stand Unity. No problem, you can switch to GNOME 3.x, Cinnamon, KDE, whatever. With Ubuntu while they want you to use Unity, you can choose to use another Linux desktop interface. With Windows 8, youre stuck with half-Metro and half-desktop.
Put it all together and what do you get? Well, I dont see Ubuntu overcoming Windows on the desktop. There are just too many Windows users out there. The Linux desktop will never catch up with it.
My question though wasnt who was going to end up the most popular desktop. It was which will end up the better for its change? To that question, theres only one answer: Ubuntu is the winner. I foresee Windows XP and 7 using sticking to their operating systems and giving Windows 8 the same cold shoulder they gave Vista and Millennium Edition.
That will end up being a real problem for Windows. Back in the day, their iron-grip on the desktop meant they could have flops and still not lose much. Today, though, were moving away from the desktop to a world where we do much of our work on the cloud and for that we can use tablets and smartphones as well. And, on tablets and smartphones, Microsoft has yet to show that Windows can play a role. Thanks to Android, we already know Linux is a major player on those, and Ubuntu is already making a desktop/Android smartphone partnership play.
All-in-all, Ubuntu is going to be far more successful for its changes than Microsoft will be with its operating system transformations.
I use Fedora on my personal machine, and I admin RH boxes.
I Loathe the Windows 8 excuse for a desktop interface and the first thing I did witht he beta was to hack it to look like windows 7.
I use Ubuntu in a VM and it is okay, but yeah RedHat is a lot better for doing a lot of certain tasks.
Count me as one of those that hates Unity. I’m becoming a fan of Linux Mint. However, I have to run as a VMware guest OS on a Windows 7 platform for now.
Maybe one day my company will allow a Linux desktop.
Microsoft has a history of forcing unwanted changes and “feature” on the users.Most users would be quite happy if they could just continue to use their XP systems,I know I would.Windows 7 isn’t bad.But I don’t want to have to relearn again for Windows 8.
I wouldn’t be surprised if consumer and corporate resistance plays as big a factor in this rollout as for Windows ME -and WinME actually didn’t cause me any difficulty.
You've GOT to be kidding me. They have run out of actual IDEAS in Redmond, but they have to change SOMETHING or how do they sell the new OS, right? Guess everything old is new again -- looks like those old menuing programs we used to buy as a front end for our DOS machines.
I wonder how the kinect and touch screen interfaces are going to integrate into everyday life on Windows 8.
Linux boxes are non-starters for the front office non-it departments.
When hiring a secretary we don’t say “do you know linux” unless it is an it department MAYBE.
I count myself lucky to be able to run Linux at work. Of course, it helps to have a rock-solid case for it to take to management--I admin RH boxes, and putty is just too darn clunky to use productively across hundreds of servers.
Im becoming a fan of Linux Mint.
I've heard good things about it, but have never seen it. The fact that it is based off of Ubuntu tends to scare me off. :)
However, I have to run as a VMware guest OS on a Windows 7 platform for now.
Run it full screen and do everything in your VM. See how long it takes them to complain. If they don't notice, you may be able to take that experience as part of your sales pitch to management. :)
And whatever comes after that could well be the next XP or Windows 7.
This is a joke of an article Right? I mean it’s so onesided you can just put a big * by the whole thing and say...all this can be ignored.
I wonder how the kinect and touch screen interfaces are going to integrate into everyday life on Windows 8.
That whole kinect type of technology is going to take off like crazy. I expect in 2 years touch screens will be obsolete and our windows interface will be hand/finger motions and eye tracking.
I don’t know about you, but, when I look at those two screens, I see one that informs me about what’s going on within the computer, and the other one tells me that, the computer is waiting for someone to do stuff, or is not informing the user about what’s going on with the active processes. Ubuntu 12.04 is just the latest version, with newer eye candy, of the same old stuff.
And, what the heck is that about “Ubuntu replaced the popular GNOME 2.x”? How popular can GNOME 2.x have been if the total user base for the whole Linux family is around 1%? So, a fraction of 1% would make it popular? How about providing context/perspective for what is being talked about?
Sorry, Charlie, most people on the planet will be sticking with Windows 7 or Windows 8 when it comes out.
Those people at ZDNet are just like the rest of the subsidiaries of CBS, and that is, they spin and demagogue and confuse the issues, while trying to sell people on the virtues of failed products.
(And, I’m just talking about the desktop/laptop market, in case someone wanted to chime in with how great Linux is for servers. This is about the PC market, where Linux is virtually irrelevant for the regular user out there.).
The real play for windows 8 will be tablets and pads. And we have yet to really have those launched on the public yet. I’ve been using windows 8 everyday. I pretty much use it in desktop mode. But I clearly see where once the apps are there I will be living in the metro interface.
I didn’t think windows phone 7 was going to be any good when I saw the interface, but when I tried it I had to admit I was dead wrong. It’s the best interface to date on a phone.
I see it being a fusion of technology. Touch, eye, body, hand tracking all inside the tablet you carry. And it can connect to a larger display. So you carry your gaming, work, and social hub with you everywhere you go.
I have gray hairs to prove otherwise.
My old company (IBM) had a Linux / RedHat build for the laptop. Upon rare occation, I had to run MS Project and MS Visio which I did so from a guest VM. The rest of my work was done on Linux via Open Office and local Linux clients.
I also was the only laptop that ran solid for 3 years without the need for local support - even though I traveled all over the globe. Other Windows members of my team were constantly having laptop problems.
I even built a bootable USB stick version that I could at least get into a “bad” laptop and recover files that customers needed.
Windows 8 seems like something designed for a phone or tablet, not a desktop computer. Of course, some desktop computers today do have touch screen capabilities, so there might be some advantages for casual browsing and such.
Well, I’m not a Windows-hater or a Redmond-hater in general, and almost all of my machines run on some Redmond product, but that Win8 interface looks ludicrous to me. Sort of a “Computing for Dummies” look. It really does remind me of the old batch-file-based and commercial menu programs we used back in the DOS days.
For me, the Metro theme is just painful to look at, with all these ugly and bright colors. However the tiles, as shown, do not tell you anything. They could, in theory, but what do you need to see there? How many new emails you have? That's displayed by all OSes, and the actual number is not too important. Subject and content? Click and you will find out. There is hardly anything else that needs your constant attention. But if you insist, Windows Vista and 7 have gadgets, which are tiny dockable applications. You can also run regular applications, resized to any size, with any transparency, reacting to hover, etc. etc.
I don't have Windows 8 and have no particular desire to download the Beta. But if tiles are not resizable, this removes a very important capability - the ability to arrange things on your desktop as that is required by whatever you are doing right now. Linux comes with virtual desktops, they are like separate desks and you can "turn" to any one of them, and items are arranged on each. In Windows world you need to pay for an advanced, 3rd party window manager that can do that.
I played with Unity in several releases of Ubuntu, but not the 12.04. I might download the CD and stick it into a spare [virtual] box to see what's happening. I'm not very enthused about Unity, generally, but as long as you only need a few applications it works fine. Its configuration is not very intuitive, though. The dashboard is quite awful; what's up with all these recent tendencies to force people to drop the mouse, move hands to the keyboard and type the name of the program? If I knew the name I could do that; but I have tons of programs that I don't know names of. Unity continues this tradition, reducing discoverability and putting more emphasis into the "direct dial."
But where the rubber hits the road I have only a few applications that could run on Linux (Firefox and Thunderbird.) WINE is not a consideration, it sucked enough of my blood in earlier years. Besides, many 3rd party applications are barely working in the native environment; running them under WINE is just asking for trouble. Ubuntu could be very usable as a kitchen computer, or an ebook-reading computer, or as a media center. But if you need a general purpose computer - one that can run Office and Photoshop and your favorite chat and your webcam and your wireless and your printer - you'd be stuck in Windows territory for a while. Windows 7 is pretty good, and it will be around for a very long time.