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Windows 8 vs. Ubuntu 11.10

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When Windows announced their new operating system, that is Windows 8, everyone on the social media was buzzing about it. Meanwhile, a bunch of developers at Canonical pulled an all-nighter fixing show-stopping bugs in the upcoming version of Ubuntu.

Linux users don’t expect their distro releases to be received with as much pomp as Windows or Mac OS. However, with Unity and the amount of improvements it has gone through, there’s a certain sense of excitement amongst Ubuntuers. Furthermore, even though Ubuntu 11.10 isn’t a LTS release, it is a critical release for the folks at Canonical. Oneiric Ocelot is Ubuntu’s golden chance to covert users back to the contentious Unity interface.

For Microsoft, the stakes seem to be high this time. Unlike then when it enjoyed a complete monopoly over the tech industry, Microsoft’s billion-dollar enterprise has taken huge visible hits thanks to the growing dominance of Apple and Android. Linux, which Microsoft once thought was over and done with, has proven itself to be a palpable threat to Microsoft’s server and mobile departments. Though Windows 8 and Ubuntu 11.10 differ hugely from each other, both in ideology and in design, they bring in a lot of similar features taking the competition up a notch.

Here’s a quick comparison between the similarities in Ubuntu 11.10 and Windows 8:


Brand new interface

Both Ubuntu and Windows 8 will sport a brand new interface. While Windows 8 will be using the tile-based Metro UI, Ubuntu will be using the tried, tested, criticized and condemned Unity interface. The tiled Metro UI is a huge step forward for Microsoft as it makes it easier for them to adapt Windows on smaller form factors. Microsoft, decimated by the rapid growth of mobiles and tablets, has finally admitted that the standard desktop is breathing its last. Canonical on the other hand, saw this coming way before Microsoft. I won’t be na├»ve as to accuse Microsoft of blatantly ‘copying’ this approach, but considering what they’ve been doing in the past, I won’t be surprised even if they actually did that. Unity, as the name suggests, will make Ubuntu easy to adapt and use on devices other than desktops and laptops. Thus, users will get the same experience across all of their devices. Apple too is slowly taking this approach by adding certain iOS-like features on their desktop operating system.

Windows 8 Metro UI


Ubuntu Unity


Desktop as you know it is dead

With Windows 8, Microsoft will do away with the traditional desktop. Of course, not entirely, but we’ll certainly see more and more people using the new interface. This will ensure that users can switch seamlessly between their different devices. Now, it may be too early to predict these things, but my opinion is that once Windows 8 is released, and if it gets successful, we may actually see a growth in Ubuntu’s market share. Windows 8’s Metro UI will do what Canonical and GNOME 3 are trying to do, that is, move people away from the dogmatic desktop UI. This will liberate many users from the conformity and push them to try out new and different things. Unity can cash in on this opportunity by further polishing their Unity UI so as to make it more appealing to new users.


Social from the start

Ubuntu, for a long time, has included essential social media features in its default desktop. Microsoft on the other hand, was lagging behind in this department. With Windows 8 though, things are about to change as the new Metro UI includes social media capabilities built-in. To be honest, up until now, the social media experience Gwibber 2.0 provided wasn’t at par with the apps that are out there on Windows and Apple. With Gwibber 3, Oneiric users can proudly boast about how social-savvy their new desktop is.

More cloud integration

Windows 8 and Ubuntu 11.10 will both be tightly integrated with the cloud. Windows 8 will be able to pull photos from the cloud, share and upload them instantly. Ubuntu 11.10 on the other hand will feature Ubuntu One online backup service with 5 GB cloud storage leaving behind Microsoft in the cloud wars.


Updated Default browsers

Windows 8 will ship with Internet Explorer 10 while Oneiric will include the improved Firefox 7.


App Stores

The Software Center has been part of Ubuntu for quite a while, but it wasn’t as appealing as many new users would expect it to be. With 11.10, that is about to change because a completely revamped app store will be a part of the desktop. On Windows 8, there will be a Windows store, allowing users to download and purchase new applications for their desktop.


New login screens

Both Ubuntu 11.10 and Windows 8 will include a new and improved login screen. They both are beautiful, but I still prefer the clean new LightDM login screen.


Microsoft’s opening up? Think again

The new Metro UI will use the innovative HTML5 technology. Now, a Windows fanboy when he hears of this will definitely be tricked into thinking that Microsoft is making significant efforts to promote open technologies. However, the truth is that Microsoft is still the conniving old wolf that will leave no stone unturned in crushing anyone who comes in their way. According to a recent Slashdot article, Windows will be using a ‘next-generation’ booting specification called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Thanks to UEFI, users won’t be able to use GPL bootloaders on their Windows 8 computers, making it almost impossible for Linux enthusiasts (and new users) to install Linux distributions on their computers. If this feature is implemented, it will be a huge blow to Linux and its growing dominance over the PC market. Well played Microsoft, well played indeed.


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

21 comments

  1. Ugh. I'm tired of hearing Metro talked up, just like I was tired in the past of Unity being talked up, except in this case Unity is at least a little better.

    Who cares if Metro or Unity are the same on all devices, when they suck on the ones I want to use? Metro is made for a touch screen and is nearly useless with a mouse. I don't see Windows 8 becomming popular simply because they have changed so much with no reason except an attempt to be forward thinking, unless Windows tablets catch on for the first time ever (OS is still full sized, not likely). Unity fell into the same trouble, desktop users (still a very large sector) hated Unity not because of dogma, but because it got in the way of their working.

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  2. "If this feature is implemented, it will be a huge blow to Linux and its growing dominance over the PC market. Well played Microsoft, well played indeed."

    I think its a desperate move from MS , and linux always finds the way to jump over small bumps like that.

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  3. hey, there !

    If this metro interface is created with html5 !, it must be very easy to adapted that in linux distro, for exemple with a compiz option we
    can do that.

    code it, have it :D !

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  4. "move people away from the dogmatic desktop UI. This will liberate many users from the conformity and push them to try out new and different things"
    First, let it be clear Unity is in no position to achieve that as it is a secondrate GUI not even able to provide in par functionality with the "Dogmatic" Gui's of old...
    If something is clear from reading that article of faith, it is the blindness of his author to the sorry state of the Linux new Guis.

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  5. "If this metro interface is created with html5 !, it must be very easy to adapted that in linux distro, for exemple with a compiz option we can do that."

    Show us the way... :)

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  6. To me is, no matter how the interface looks like, at the end is users still run applications that tied to Windows OS, especially Microsoft Office. The developers in LibreOffice are doing a good job, working very hard, but when it comes to office applications, most ppl still wants to use MS Office for various reasons. One main reason is compatibility. Even for Google Apps, compatibility is still an issue.

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  7. Then just use wine for ms office

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  8. Please check your stuff EFI exists since the end of the 90s UEFI since about 2005 and is used on apple machines and many severs, on which linux does run.
    Other thing, desktops and mobile devices are different, try writing a letter, coding or using photoshop on a handheld device... To my mind there is nothing wrong with the desktop enviromment, nor is there anything wrong with the mobile's, they are just meant for different things and thus having the same interface can only be counter productive.

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  9. I started to use Linux as my main platform in 2008 and year later i kicked out Windows Xp from my computer. There ain't any serious reason to come back. Linux works generally better, more reliable, is stabile and i have saved lots of money so far (free OS, free software).

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  10. Dual-boot is important for machines displaying presentations from a variety of OS's. If Windows 8 does not allow this, Ubuntu will continue to do so!

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  11. I think even with this Metro UI Ubuntu will be up ahead. That is the advantage of open source, anyone can help

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  12. "If this feature is implemented, it will be a huge blow to Linux and its growing dominance over the PC market. Well played Microsoft, well played indeed."
    What growing dominance ?
    Linux totals less than one percent of the worldwide usage no matter what platform.
    Linux distros are fan boy stuff of dreams , written and designed for use by those same fan boys , not the general public.

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  13. Wankers 8 does resemble of something that has to be avoided.

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  14. Windows 8 sucks and Microsoft is a loser to kill the GPL loader by ueafi.

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  15. That's a lie, about the UEFI thing. Right now, only 64-bit versions of Windows 7 can boot from GPT, and this can only be done on UEFI motherboards without an obscenely long workaround.
    ...What I mean by this is that when Windows can only do GPT from UEFI. Without it, it can't. Also, Windows 8 can't ship with UEFI; that's a motherboard feature. Macs have been using EFI for a very long time, and PC's have been using BIOS for an obscenely long time. UEFI, the next step in the BIOS-EFI tree of evolution, was first implemented by Asus. It is the future of BIOS. Also, Microsoft wants to use GPT (it is being pressured by many corporations); MBR has a max partition-size limit of 2.2 TB; GPT's is way over that. Also, the other nice features of GPT are hard to pass-up.

    And anyway, Linux has always worked from MBR without issue. In fact, I almost always use MBR for my Linuxes when I have a BIOS motherboard, and most distros use MBR as their default – even Gparted advises-against using anything other than MBR. Thus, even if the bullshit about Windows 8 shipping with UEFI and making it impossible to use GPT were true, it wouldn't matter. :)

    So, chillax, dudes.

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  16. the best thing about ubuntu is the community. I have been running ubuntu since 7.10 and with whatever small problems i have ran into people on the forums and at connical are always there to help. Good luck trying to get ahold of someone at microsoft that speaks english and is willing to help free of charge when something doesnt work right.

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  17. "the best thing about ubuntu is the community. I have been running ubuntu since 7.10 and with whatever small problems i have ran into people on the forums and at connical are always there to help. Good luck trying to get ahold of someone at microsoft that speaks english and is willing to help free of charge when something doesnt work right."

    I have, Microsoft and other sites have lovely forums that you can post to and get great help. Free of charge.

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  18. you just hate windows, the reason that you have missed to write about important features in windows. It is not socially integrated ? Lie : Try windows live essential and think again. And you have missed to write also about the skydrive feature that give you 25GB of cloud storage, not only in ubnutu, but in windows, windows phone, linux and mac.

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  19. You might be interested to know the title of my woefully unpublished Star Trek novella "Gates of Borg."
    From my parents' home in Wyoming I stab at thee!

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  20. AnonymousJuly 06, 2012

    I don't care what Microsoft is doing with windows remember hackers hate windows and they always will find out the way how we can have Linux at first choice booting

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