This just in… or at least into my inbox: “Google Closes the Blinds on Windows”
It looks like the company, which successfully became a verb, and has built a love/hate relationship for many in the technology world has made a choice. Apparently they are in the process of removing Windows from the organization and offering Linux or Mac for all of their users. In this report, Andrew Storms, the director of security operations at nCircle Security, comments that the move smells more like cost-cutting than security. “[But it’s] been cleverly spun into a PR effort to strike at Microsoft,” he said.
Even if it is a cost-cutting move, so what? If removing Windows from your organization saves money, money that one might want for other things, like paying employees, marketing, development of new business, things that go way beyond providing a platform on which to run your applications, what’s wrong with that? If you could buy fuel for your car more cheaply and still get where you want to go, wouldn’t you do it? If you could refinance your mortgage and get a better deal, wouldn’t you do it?
As the open-source movement continues to provide multi-platform tools and as more and more functionality moves into the browser, the platform running your applications becomes less and less relevant. For many, the only thing really holding them from making such a move is the will to move. If this all really goes through as rumored, perhaps that example will provide will for other companies and individuals to officially make the change that they’ve been hinting at for years. If that happens, it will make some interesting changes in the software and hardware industries. Developers who have kept their development Windows-centric, claiming that there was no point in supporting anything else but Windows may suddenly discover that they have multi-platform approaches after all.
I think that finally breaking that ice will help computing to integrate in areas that have been held up. I remember several years ago seeing some of the technology concepts which had your house working together. IBM had this ad about how little bits of technology planted around could make life easier. Frankly, I think centering our computing around Windows has made it very difficult to do this sort of ubiquitous technology. It wasn’t that it wasn’t possible to have more integration between Windows and things that couldn’t run Windows. It just didn’t appear to be easy for some reason. As a Linux user, I became frustrated with the ways that gadgets I would get came packaged with all of this Windows software with no information about how to interact with the device in any other way. Generally this was not a problem, because in many cases Linux would recognize the device as a file system or something and I stumbled across an open-source tool to help me out. A good example is the calibre program which I use to manage my Sony book reader. It makes book management very easy to deal with and even helps me convert between formats to make for a better experience. I can group ebooks together in a series to help me find them and read them in order. It’s nice. (It’s also multi-platform!) A bad example is my TomTom navigator, which, despite the fact that it uses Linux as it’s operating system, has it’s interface software only available in Windows (and more recently Mac OS X). It’s begun to be supplanted by my Droid phone for navigation… which is a shame because I think the TomTom does a better job in many ways.
It’s all about standards. Not “this is the only platform that people should use so you should only bother programming with our tools in our way” sort of standards, but true open standards that are independent of tools and platforms. The more we adopt predictable ways for technology to communicate the easier it will be for people to create devices and software that can do it. Perhaps this sort of quaking in the desktop world will cause people to wonder what they’ll do if the market changes, and they’ll start reaching for those standards. Whatever happens next, I think it’s going to be interesting.