I had this short conversation with several people the other day, where I mentioned about Windows. I wondered why Microsoft has not decided to build the next version of Windows on the BSD kernel. Besides the sin of pride, I really couldn’t think of any technical reason not to.
BSD is a distribution of Unix created by UC Berkeley. Unix is an operating system developed in 1969. Through the years, it has evolved into an extremely secure and stable OS. People who use real computers (not toy computers) use variants of Unix. There is no technical reason why Microsoft cannot just use BSD and rid the whole world of numerous security problems. A company that has finally decided to do exactly that, after going their own way, is Apple. Just in case you didn’t know, Apple uses a BSD operating system. They then designed a ultra cool user interface on top of it. Microsoft could always copy Apple – they do it all the time anyway.
- Backwards Compatibility
Some people may think that Microsoft needs to maintain backwards compatibility. Therefore, it cannot make a major architectural change like that. I laugh inside whenever I hear this. However, most people are not familiar with the Church-Turing thesis and therefore, I must forgive them. Microsoft is not the scion of backwards compatibility. They often break compatibility within their own products.
Apple has shown us that backwards compatibility is certainly possible. Few people realise that you can run Apple II software on a modern Mac. This is ultimate backwards compatibility. The Apple used to use a Motorola 68K microprocessor, then moved onto the IBM PowerPC before finally turning to Intel x86 today. Apple has shown that not only is backwards compatibility possible, even software written for an entirely different computer architecture can be kept compatible.
- Proprietary Software
Some people may think that Microsoft has a lot of secret sauce that it needs to keep hidden and using an open source OS like any of the modern BSDs will force it to reveal its hand. This is a myth because the BSDs are distributed under a very permissive BSD license, which basically allows you to do whatever you want with it, including building proprietary software out of it.
In fact, Apple again has shown how to do it. Apple has plenty of secret sauces that Microsoft is still failing to copy successfully. Apple has built them all on top of BSD and does not need to share it with the world if it does not want to. It all comes down to the terms of the BSD license. It is more commercial friendly than say, the GPL that is used by Linux. That’s why I’m suggesting BSD instead of Linux Windows
- Technical Superiority
This is another laughable excuse. While many people are heralding the technical superiority of Windows 7, please remember that they are comparing it against Vista, not any of the Unices. While they herald the resource savings of Windows 7, please remember that a full fledge BSD install with graphical user interface can fit inside 128Mb of hard disk space or less, using even less memory. While users try to fight off the ‘infection of the day’ on Windows, the Unix people are free to do something useful with their time instead.
So, I sometimes wonder why Microsoft still wants to go it alone and re-design their OS from the ground up so many times and still fail to get it right. Their track record has shown that they just cannot write quality software. Since there is already a proven 40 year-old OS out there for the taking, it is really stupid not to just customise it and use it.
The other day, a friend of mine tried out Linux for the first time and asked me what anti-virus he needed to install. He did not quite believe me when I told him that there was no such thing. Those that are written for Linux, such as ClamAV and F-Prot, are actually designed to kill Windows viruses, not Linux ones. Seriously. You do not know what it is like to live in a virus free world until you have entered the world of Unix. It is totally refreshing and fun.
Microsoft should seriously consider doing an Apple. It will end up doing the whole world a favour by introducing ‘safe computing’ to the masses instead of introducing new infections with every new version of Windows.