Maybe Windows really is the best OS in the world.

All over the internet and blogshpere there are varying opinions, bordering on religious fanaticism, of which OS is the best. I obviously have my opinion too. There has been a lot of work done around trying to quantify what constitutes the best way to measure an OS to label it the best.

Since everyone else has done a good job of spouting statistics (skewed or otherwise), what I put to you here is that there is only one metric that really counts: How many people chose to use the OS.

So if we look at that, obviously Windows is a clear winner. Some of you will say ‘Yeah but that’s because Microsoft pays OEMs to package it with their computers’, or those of you that tend toward more conspiracy will say that Microsoft secretly undermines other OSes etc etc. You know what, even if that was true (which it isn’t, sorry conspiracy freaks) it still wouldn’t matter because that is not the primary way to measure it.

I think if we just look at how often people try to obtain Windows to run on their machines, voluntarily and at risk of legal peril, we can see that it is obviously the OS of choice. Let’s take China as an example. It is estimated that the number of legitimate copies of Windows in China is somewhere around 2%. yes, 2 out of a hundred copies are legit. The other 98% of those copies are obtained illegally. Obviously China is an extreme example, but people trying to obtain pirated copies of Windows around the world is a well established phenomenon.

Why is it the most pirated software on the planet if people don’t think it was the best one to use? Why use pirated software, when you can get Ubuntu, or any other Linux distros for free? Why isn’t OS X pirated as much? Well, probably because it only works on Macs with any level of stability and in the grand scheme of things Macs aren’t exactly widespread in the global market (around 5% according to Market Share).

In most cases it will be a matter of perspective and the right tool for the right job. If you are a hacker at heart, like to know how things work and aren’t afraid of recompiling the kernel and destabilising your machine then Linux is probably for you. But if you need ease of use, the largest available catalogue of software, the widest and most cost effective support options  then you need something like Windows.

I admit that determining if something is the best or not is a matter of opinion and usage environment, but if look at the demand for the operating system, Windows is a clear winner.

Comments (15)

  1. jeffyjones says:

    Come on, really? I dig Win7, work for MS and I’m still willing to recognize that the “demand” is little more than it’s the default sold with new machines. That an OS is pirated is hardly a measure of its “win” either. All kinds of crappy music is popular, pirated and worshiped. It’s not reflective of its quality.

  2. TheRockyH says:

    Well forget the default sales. Just considering how much it is installed on machines people already have, and the lengths people will go to get it should say something as well.

    If it wasn’t the best, then there would be no piracy because you can just download Linux or whatever would be considered better.

    Even when given a choice of OS to have installed on a new machine, people chose Windows over Linux. Obviously with Apple computers you don’t get a choice. Well, with anything remotely associated with Apple you don’t get a choice. So it’s hard to compare demand for Windows against Demand for OS X.

  3. shaond says:

    You know, as a Mac user and someone that uses GNU/Linux day in day out at work, I’d still say that YES, Window’s is the most popular OS by choice.

    I have no shame in saying that, but as much as most people loathe the thought of hitting CTRL + ALT + DEL to login, I think Windows has evolved tremendously over the last decade.

    I started off using Windows 3.1 and 95 and it really enabled me to do things that … at the time were not possible with any other OS on the market. I learnt all about PC’s, word processing, spreadsheets (before moving on to other more interesting things) on a Windows PC.

    Its enabled more people around the world access to the resources on the Internet than any other OS to date.

    And for that, thanks Mr Gates for such vision of the "magic of software".

    Now back to my Xterm, Vim and screen sessions…

  4. MetaDark says:

    To be honest, I don't think Windows is the most user friendly OS. The most user friendly OS in my opinion would be Ubuntu Linux. You are probably thinking "WHAT LINUX?". Yes Linux.

    Just because an OS was once something different, doesn't mean it won't evolve. Ubuntu is much easier and safer to install than any Windows installer, it comes with everything an average user will need, for example; an office suite, a social networking client, a note taking application, a music player (much like iTunes), a movie player, an internet browser, a calculator (obviously), a dictionary, a Messaging Client, a Movie Editor, an email client, a software center, and the list goes on. Installing apps is super easy. All you have to do is go to the software center, find an app, and press install. Only in extremely rare causes would an everyday user have to browse over the internet to find an application. Ubuntu is the first OS in the world to support iPhones completely out of the box. You can even run a large amount of Windows apps (without any problems) through Wine, an "emulator" for Windows. You don't need virus scanners, you don't need to defragment your hard drive, Ubuntu always "runs like new", in more cases than Windows, when you plug something in (like a USB), it won't require to install drivers because the kernel already has the drivers that are necessary.

    I've used Windows for most of my life and I know what it is like, so don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about. Every single driver problem I have experienced with Ubuntu occured (on the same machine) on Windows. The only difference was, I couldn't fix the problem on Windows. (Stupid DirectX 11 and Aero)

  5. TheRockyH says:

    I would venture a guess that you couldn't fix the problem on Ubuntu either without someone writing a driver for you, and then going through a rather difficult installation process for something that was not published in the software catalog.

    I do agree that Ubuntu is probably the best Linux distro for the general public, but it is still a far cry from being widely palatable by non-IT trained users.

  6. DavidW says:

    I have Ubuntu 10.4 and XP.

    I have found tasks like installing and using a capture card much easier in Windows.  Windows gives me a much cleaner look – looking a web pages in ie is much nicer than Firefox and yes I have developed my own themes in Ubuntu and Firefox.  I like Linux, its design is more secure automatically I am a user and have to manually access the kernel.  Where in windows I have to make lots of changes.

    Evolution mail and calendar  is so much better than outlook – simple things like the icons for birthdays and so on.   If Linux keeps developing as it is and Microsoft if do not make fundamental changes then the time is rapidly coming when a sudden shift will happen.  I know a 64 year old lady who only uses Ubuntu and Firefox for farmville windows and ie if keeps slowing right down.  When 64 year old women with very limited education and computer skills choose Linux Microsoft needs to act to survive.

    She is spreading the word and now I am aware of 5 other homes that have moved to Ubuntu.

  7. David again says:

    I must be a bit more honest.

    Yes the 64 year old lady uses Ubuntu and so do the others I spoke of.

    But despite all the talk to the contrary Windows as desktop operating system is just so far ahead of Linux.

    Sound, Graphics, software, hardware support.  They all have so much more support and functionality in windows.  Bug regression is becoming an issue in Linux.  Yes windows has its problems but compared to Linux they are minor.  Yes Linux is free, but I would rather pay for something that does the job than only half the job.  Microsoft really have to deal with the IE and Facebook, Farmville flash slowdown issue it does not happen in Linux running Firefox and given the number of people who play games on Facebook Microsoft are by default forcing people to look elsewhere.


  8. TheRockyH says:

    Thanks for the comments David,

    Just as an aside, the Farmville issue is an issue with the IE Adobe Flash player, not a factor of IE or Windows. I will pass your recommendations on to Adobe though.

    With Linux you have a huge support problem. Red Hat for example, if you do anything to the default distro, as in add an application, update an application or even patch an application you are no longer covered by support because this is not the distro package by Red Hat any longer.  If you need help with anything you have to rely on the good graces of the community (which isn't too bad really). The adage, You get what you pay for applies quite well to Linux.

  9. David yet again says:

    Why the two similar messages above.  Well the first was done with firefox on ubuntu 10.4 and from my end it seemed as if it had failed.  So I formatted and used Norton Ghost to reload my copy of XP Pro and re typed the message.  Just an example of what I mean Linux does not always do what it is supposed to do.  When I retyped in IE on XP I received a message saying my text had been sent.  

    A very well known Linux promoter has recently released a video giving 6 reasons why Linux ……

    Check out osgui tech show.

    will leave you all in peace now, thanks for listening wishing you all the best wishes


  10. CSC says:

    "Why is it the most pirated software on the planet if people don’t think it was the best one to use? Why use pirated software, when you can get Ubuntu, or any other Linux distros for free?"

    Your logic is flawed.  You have no way to compare how many weighed the options of pirating Windows versus installing a free Linux distribution and decided that pirating was the better way to go.

    A question like "What is the best operating system?" can't be answered unless you qualify exactly what it is to be sued for.  Ubuntu is an excellent and user-friendly operating system.  Software is installed with ease through its simple and user-friendly software center.  Ubuntu's installation process and hardware support is extremely good.  I would easily go out on a limb and suggest it is more comprehensive than Windows 7, and certainly better than Windows XP's.  The frequency of updates from Canonical makes Ubuntu more current than Windows, and the overall speed of Ubuntu makes it a better choice for people with older hardware.

    Here's a question – what is the biggest source of grief and frustration most average computer users have with their systems these days?  "My computer is running slowly." or "I think I have malware or spyware" or "I have so many toolbars in Internet Explorer I can't see my web pages!"  You don't hear these most common complaints from Ubuntu users.

    Yes, some aspects of Ubuntu are confusing when you get down to the command line, but that is no different with Windows 7, and yet, somehow Windows users manage to get along fine without understanding the intricacies of the Windows configurations.  Same goes for Ubuntu!  Most installations go smoothly with Ubuntu, but if it doesn't, keep this in mind – most Windows users don't install their OS… it is typically pre-installed when they purchase their computer.  On a pre-installed Ubuntu setup, people generally have very few technical issues they have to worry about.

    And this issue of a "huge support problem"…  I'd love to know where that comes from.  Have you dealt with Canonical support?  I highly suspect a vast majority of computer users don't deal with Microsoft support.  Most operating systems are distributed as OEM, and the support is punted down to the manufacturer of their hardware.  The Linux community is full of very helpful individuals whose attitude is vastly different than most manufacturers.  I've got to say, I've heard far more complaints about OEMs than independent support communities, let alone Canonical themselves.

    As for RedHat – they have support options that go well beyond anything that Microsoft offers – up to ten years with extended lifecycle support.  I'm not really sure where you heard the nonsense about updates and patches, but RedHat quite obviously supports their own updates to their distribution.  If you patch with someone else's code, you *might* be on your own in some cases, but the last I heard, you patch a Microsoft OS with someone else's code, and you're most definitely on your own.  No.  You don't always get what you pay for.  The naive should keep this in mind lest they find themselves sending good money after bad.

    The real problem is that so many people are just so used to the Microsoft universe that anything else seems like it's being accomplished in a fashion that is "inconvenient" or "unconventional".  It's easy to be blinded by tradition.  For example, when was the last time you 'dialed' a phone number?  Most people don't even consider that, do they?  They don't stop to think that perhaps there is a better way to do things, or they don't even realise that they actually have other options.  Or, quite frequently, they misunderstand their options.

  11. samuel says:

    If your notebook is empty (no OS) and have 30 minutes before the lesson begins, with a Linux mint cd you will install the system and take notes with your pc when the lesson starts. When it comes to ease of use and installation, Linux mint beats all the others. But I don't think any Linux distro will ever be popular like windows, and that's not a problem. The good thing is to have alternatives so as to keep Microsoft on it's toes.

  12. cory says:

    We should take into account the number of people who buy PCs with Windows pre-installed because it's the only thing they know and wouldn't be comfortable trying anything else.  Many families with a standard knowledge of computers have only ever known Windows.  It is the most advertised and talked about OS, not including the past couple years of iPhone/iPod rage.  Many kids are trained on Windows computers in their schools.

    I think many peoples' knowledge of OS's beyond Windows and Mac are limited to the word Linux itself and nothing more.  It's a mysterious and frightening thing that we just don't have the time or knowledge to get into when in fact this is not true at all with Ubuntu.

  13. Jerry says:

    It all boils down to this: I want my OS to work well.  I recently spent two days trying to get Ubuntu to work.  It now works. Barely.  As I type this on my Windows 7 machine, that works REALLY well, I have decided that I am going to uninstall Ubuntu.  Maybe I'll give it another try in a couple years.

  14. Chris says:

    At the end of the day the best OS is the one each person chooses is best for them… I do detect a hint of anti-Linux sentiment in much of the authors comments, that's fine, but look at it this way i too use Ubuntu day-to-day, after having a computer bought preloaded with Vista, Vista lasted 3 months before it packed it in MBR failure amongst other dramas (not an isolated event in Vista). So for those who dont have this issue they will continue on using what is a slow and bloated OS (7 is only marginally better in my experience, but so slow, XP should have been re-birthed/tweaked over the garbage they release now). Mac is in a way a niche, as with its "I" products good marketing keeps them in business regardless if the hardware and software is rubbish. That being said the world knows Microsoft for good or bad, and few will venture away, if it meets your needs then thats all that matters.

  15. Nico says:

    All i can say is that Windows is the most widely used OS worldwide but not neccesarly the best.

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