Microsoft has finally realized that Windows NT Workstation, 98, and ME users need an upgrade path that will work with their hardware. Too bad, Linux desktops can already fill that bill.
Well, well, well. Microsoft has decided to offer a thin desktop operating system in the United States after all. Could it be that the Linux desktop, with some help from the low-cost Mac Mini, is finally making the boys from Redmond sweat?
Eiger, an anorexic version of Windows XP Pro, is meant for PC users whose machines are still running Windows 98, ME, NT Workstation or 2000. Microsoft has already stopped mainstream support for the first three, and W2K's day of no-support reckoning comes on June 30.
For those of you without a scorecard, Microsoft swore up and down that it wouldn't bring a cut-rate XP Starter Edition to the U.S. market.
XP Starter Edition was meant to slow down Linux acceptance in countries like Thailand and Brazil, where the Linux desktop was really getting traction. Can there be any doubt that at least part of the reason why Eiger has appeared out of nowhere is that Microsoft fears the same thing could happen here?
I'm sure there are other factors. Longhorn, even stripped of features-should I say Shorthorn?-may not show up until 2007. And, no matter when it shows up, its system requirements-an absolute minimum of a 800MHz Pentium, 256MBs of RAM, and a GPU (Graphics Processor Unit)-will put it out of the reach of the remaining NT Workstation, Windows 98 and some W2K users.
No, Microsoft really needed to issue a new, low-end Windows. They may not be calling it that, but that's what Eiger really is.
Now, I actually think this is a good move on Microsoft's part. Microsoft had made it clear that it was not going to be back porting its XP SP2 security fixes to even W2K. With Eiger, users with old Pentium machines, at least, will have a real security upgrade path.
At the same time, though, Longhorn's delay is the Linux desktop's chance.
Today, there is no Eiger, no Longhorn, but there are low-end Linux operating systems that can do anything a Windows desktop can do for less upfront cost and with far better security.
If you're getting sick of endless Windows viruses and critical patches, try one of these Linux desktops. I've used them all, and any of them makes a fine Windows desktop replacement.
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