Earlier this year, Windows 8 was launched with great expectations. Microsoft banked on it to be a game-changer both for the tablet world as well as the desktop computer world. According to Redmond, the latest iteration of the most popular operating system in the world is a bridge between the tablet and the desktop. With a sleek, redesigned, and touch-friendly interface, Windows 8 was all set to become yet another milestone for Microsoft.

However, Steve Ballmer’s expectations were crushed when the early reviews didn’t turn out to be that good. Windows 8, along with its contentious Metro interface, was criticized for its lack of usability and confusing design. Many users posted videos of their friends and family having a hard time figuring out how to use the software. In fact, the dramatic departure from the familiar Start-button oriented user interface has irked many users.

So, what does this mean for Microsoft? Are their glory days over? But more than Microsoft, what does this mean for its desktop competitors like Linux, Mac OS X, and perhaps Google Chrome OS? Do they have a golden chance against the mighty giant? We don’t know about Mac OS X but Linux, well, it certainly does. In fact, it won’t be a mistake to say that Windows 8’s lukewarm reception is a great opportunity for Linux to make its presence felt. 


What’s wrong with Windows 8?

The most popular reason for sticking with Windows and not switching to any other operating system is that of familiarity. For years, the start button, the menus and the desktop have been synonymous with the computer itself. In fact, earlier versions of Linux were designed so that it would be easier for Windows users to switch to the penguin side. Moreover, many distributions still exist that showcase the Windows-like familiarity to the user. In short, the traditional Windows interface that lasted and evolved from Windows XP to Windows 7 is already implanted in many desktop users.

Windows 8 is a huge departure from that familiarity. The tiled UI, the touch-friendly design and the absence of Start menu makes Windows 8 an entirely different product. Of course, Microsoft does allow users to switch back to the Start button-oriented menu, but the main focus of the product remains the Metro interface. This has definitely annoyed a lot of users. And these are the same users who stuck with Microsoft for its familiarity. 



So, what’s in it for Linux?

While Windows 8 continues to be criticized by different reviews and users alike, Linux can bank on this opportunity to gain the upper hand in the game. There will definitely be many Windows users who will be looking for alternatives. Some of them, in fact, many of them, wouldn’t want to spend so much money on an Apple computer. They’ll start looking for alternatives that fit into their budget and are reliable.


But the brave new world of Linux is daunting for many

Yes, I agree. But with the Windows 8 Metro disaster, Linux lovers can rest assured that Redmond has leveled the playing field. If you compare Windows 8 to Linux Mint or Ubuntu, you’ll definitely find the latter to be way better. Ubuntu is already gaining a lot of recognition and is getting better and better each day. Their UI is much refined, mature and can be readily used by any new user.


Hmm...but Microsoft already rules the desktop world!

Yes it does. It has a huge empire that cannot be easily shaken by Linux or even Mac OS X. However, if you start slow, you’ll discover that it is quite easier to dominate the market than it was before. Windows 8 is a cross between tablets and desktops. Well, so is Ubuntu. Ubuntu can be used on desktop, tablets, and wait, now there is Ubuntu for Android as well. So, it isn’t that easy to rule out the possibility of Ubuntu or Linux in general giving Microsoft a tough time.


Conclusion:

What Windows 8 has done is that it has made it easier for Linux to prove to the desktop users that there is a beautiful world out there without windows. If you aren’t convinced already, it’s time you try out Windows 8 yourself, and then compare it to beginner-friendly Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint.


Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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