Microsoft is huge, and Bill Gates is a poster boy for success. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall -- as they say. This is a story about good old-fashioned competition -- it's about David and Goliath, it's about LINUX -- an open source operating system that won't go away no matter how much Bill Gates wishes it would.
And why should it? LINUX has its roots in the 1970'S. Researchers at AT&T labs originally created an operating system called UNIX, and from the start, it was "open-source", meaning it's underlying code was freely shared, not kept secret like Microsoft's, which came out much later. Windows hit the marketplace in the early 80's, eventually making Bill Gates a billionaire. Then, in the early 90's, Linus Torvalds, a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland developed LINUX from UNIX, and it's that version of the open-source code that's causing headaches for Bill Gates and Microsoft.
"The threat would come, you know, he's charging $99 for his operating system to get on the internet, do word-processing, whereas these companies like Lindows are charging $29-$39-dollars for something that does pretty much the same thing," says Mike Higgins of Creative Data Systems in Cape Girardeau.
Hey, wait a minute, was that Windows or Lindows? Yep, that's right, LINDOWS. A competing Windows-look-alike operating system based on LINUX that is giving Microsoft fits....and it's starting to hit mainstream.
The only company with enough moxie, with enough retail clout to challenge Microsoft is Wal-Mart, which is selling inexpensive computers with a LINUX-based operating system.
It's right there on the Wal-Mart website. $299 buys you a complete system with Lindows,which, although it falls short of Windows, does have an unexpected advantage.
"The greatest thing about it when I look at it is, it's almost virus-free, becasue the virus-writers out there write their viruses to attack Microsoft products," points out Higgins.
The catch of course is that Lindows has a very small universe of compatible software compared to what available for Windows, and it isn't quite as user-friendly, not yet.