Skip to comments.Linux-based Windows makes perfect sense
Posted on 10/05/2020 3:32:40 AM PDT by ShadowAce
A few days ago, Eric S. Raymond (ESR), developer and writer, suggested that we're nearing the last phase of the desktop wars. The winner? Windows running on Linux.
He's on to something. I've long thought that Microsoft was considering migrating the Windows interface to running on the Linux kernel. Why?
Raymond argues that "WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) allows unmodified Linux binaries to run under Windows 10. No emulation, no shim layer, they just load and go." Indeed, you can run standard Linux programs now on WSL2 without any trouble.
That's because Linux is well on its way to becoming a first-class citizen on the Windows desktop. Multiple Linux distros, starting with Ubuntu, Red Hat Fedora, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), now run smoothly on WSL2. That's because Microsoft has replaced its WSL1 translation layer, which converted Linux kernel calls into Windows calls, with WSL2. With WSL2 Microsoft's own Linux kernel is running on a thin version of the Hyper-V hypervisor.
That's not all. With the recent Windows 10 Insider Preview build 20211, you can now access Linux file systems, such as ext4, from Windows File Manager and PowerShell. On top of that, Microsoft developers are making it easy to run Linux graphical applications on Windows.
Besides Microsoft working its hardest to marry the Windows desktop with Linux, Raymond pointed out others are working to make it easier to run Windows applications on Linux. In particular, he points to Valve's Proton, a Wine-based compatibility layer developed for running Windows Steam games on Linux. "The thing about games is that they are the most demanding possible stress test for a Windows emulation layer, much more so than business software." If you can run Windows games on Linux, why not Windows business applications?
He also observed, correctly, that Microsoft no longer depends on Windows for its cash flow but on its Azure cloud offering. Which, by the way, is running more Linux instances than it is Windows Server instances.
So, that being the case, why should Microsoft keep pouring money into the notoriously trouble-prone Windows kernel -- over 50 serious bugs fixed in the last Patch Tuesday roundup -- when it can use the free-as-in-beer Linux kernel? Good question. He thinks Microsoft can do the math and switch to Linux.
I think he's right. Besides his points, there are others. Microsoft already wants you to replace your existing PC-based software, like Office 2019, with software-as-a-service (SaaS) programs like Office 365. Microsoft also encourages you to move your voice, video, chat, and texting to Microsoft's Azure Communication Services (ACS) even if you don't use Teams.
With SaaS programs, Microsoft doesn't care what operating system you're running. They're still going to get paid whether you run Office 365 on Windows, a Chromebook, or, yes, Linux.
I see two possible paths ahead for Windows. First, there's Linux-based Windows. It simply makes financial sense. Or, the existing Windows desktop being replaced by the Windows Virtual Desktop or other Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offerings.
Of course, even if Microsoft goes all in with a DaaS approach -- and I think it will -- it'll still need a common base operating system. This, like Chrome OS, will provide just enough of an operating system to run a browser with a minimum of other local resources.
Google chose to save money and increase security by using Linux as the basis for Chrome OS. This worked out really well for Google. It can for Microsoft with -- let's take a blast from the past -- and call it Lindows as well.
Ping, for old times’ sake.
Kind of copying Apple? Windows should have been unix based eon’s ago.
Tech talk. Interesting. I’m not to preschool yet. I know nuttin’. Thanks for posting. Now that I’m retired, I have more time. Thanks to all techies/posters.
If everything goes to Software as a Service, doesn’t that imply everyone’s Internet connection has to be super-fast and 100% reliable? Won’t the slightest connectivity deficiency be a bottleneck for many people? Just curious how this will work in the real world.
Yeah, that whole lack of security updates is a bit of a problem. And I like Windows 7 real well, too. Just not enough to run it day-to-day given that first.
Excellent point--one I've thought about myself. Another is that I do not want my software controlled by outside parties, whether that is my ISP, the software provider, or a storage vendor ("cloud"). If I purchase software, it is mine.
Nooooo!!! I still have nightmares from that crap.
I’ll continue to use Win 7 until video games stop working on it.
What about Windows-based Linux?
If theyre just copying Apple, Ill stick with MacOS, thank you very much!
SJVN is a nut. IBM finally had to buy Red Hat just to save it.
LOL! Demonstrably false.
But will it run Doom?
Windows as a Service is already available. They're called Virtual Desktops that run in Azure and AWS today. The same is true for Linux as a Service on both platforms.
What some are suggesting "under the covers" is that there will no longer be a Windows OS sitting on an end point at home. They'll simply turn on their "pc" which does a BIOS boot and connects to a Desktop in Azure/AWS. That's a Network Boot which has been done with Windows and Linux OS' for many years now.
The only difference at this point would be the speed of the endpoint booting, loading the required OS Kernel across the network connection and presenting the user interface. (That's a very high level description. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes that most users frankly don't care about.)
From an end user's usability perspective, functionally there would be no difference than that which you can do with your pc/laptop today. All your files would be "kept in the cloud" and backed up based on either a default policy or a schedule that the end user would setup. Printing documents would be handled as they are today, the file would be sent to your local printer (which becomes a Network Print function) with all the document translation, coding, etc.. handled by the desktop as a service in the cloud.
How would this all work at home? Pretty simple actually. Unless you have a specific need to have your own local storage @ home, your "pc" or laptop would no longer require physical storage for documents, pictures, music, etc.. unless you wanted it. Prices of PC's as cheap as they are now should drop in price and (here's the catch) unless you pay your monthly fee for access to your data in the cloud, you won't have access to it.
Desktop as a Service would be a subscription just like you'd pay for electricity. Don't pay and you're cut off. Want your electricity (or Desktop as a Service) back? Pay the re-connection fee and monthly service fee to get your service back.
Now there are significant benefits to Desktop as a Service and things you'd (theoretically) no longer have to worry about such as viruses and malware for example. The DaaS provider would handle all of that, perform all OS upgrades, keep your DaaS hardware current and running, etc..
From an Enterprise perspective, I'm working on a project to eliminate the desktops & laptops that 8,500+ people are using half a world away and moving them to DaaS which has proven to be faster, more reliable and more secure. BTW, it's CHEAPER per person too than providing all these people physical laptops which God only knows what else they're using them for.
keep windows away from my linux
Just like SunOS and Solaris in the 80's and 90's. ;)
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