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The Case Against The Case Against Running Windows Apps

Picture - Matthew Peavy   February 28, 2008
  By Matthew D. Peavy
  Give Me Fish, LLC

In Bruce Byfield's article from February 26, 2008, titled GNU/Linux Desktop: The Case Against Running Windows Apps the question is raised whether the allocation of resources (in this case, donations of money and software patches by Google) towards improving Wine was wise or necessary. He questions whether the donations are even potentially harmful.

Mr. Byfield's point is that Free Software alternatives exist for nearly all the major proprietary applications running on Windows, and thus the money would be better spent furthering the development of native applications. In addition, he criticizes the process of making it easier to run proprietary applications rather than encouraging the use of native applications.

While I understand the points of view that Mr. Byfield raises, and we certainly agree in our support for GNU/Linux, I must take issue with the overall message of the article. The major improvements made by (or funded by) Google are an unqualified good for the Linux platform and for FOSS in general.

First off, it should be noted that Google doesn't donate money to projects based on pure altruism. There is a reason for the projects they have chosen to support. Mr. Byfield states his wish for Google to concentrate their donations on the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) high-priority projects. Google may not see any real gain from such a donation. And while Mr. Byfield's assertion that these project "deserve support far more than any effort to run increasingly redundant Window programs" may make sense from his point of view, it apparently doesn't from Google's. They have voiced their priorities by allocating money to Wine.

Mr. Byfield describes the issue of Wine support as "a vanishing need", based on the fact that FOSS applications have improved so dramatically over the past decade. The quality of FOSS applications has improved greatly. For many of us, the applications meet or exceed their proprietary counter-parts. We have no problem using them on a daily basis. However, the "we" I speak of is the minority of computer savvy users who have already taken the time to get to know Linux and OpenOffice and the GIMP.

The vast majority of computer users don't want to learn a new application, let alone 10 new applications and an operating system to boot. We need to be realistic. Moving to Linux is a huge challenge for the average user. Forcing him or her to also learn a new suite of applications simply puts the idea of completely out of reach.

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