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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Death of Windows OS?!

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Google’s Android OS is all set to rewrite tales in the OS market. But can the newcomer really beat the big daddy?

After making inroads into the mobile phone market (with its G-Phone), Google has now decided to get back strong at where its journey started, the PC. Yes, the Mountain View giant is widely speculated to be working on getting its Android Operating System running soon on computers by 2010, thus challenging the dominance of Microsoft’s Vista and XP(which have been estimated to garner 95.4% share in the OS category by end-2009, by Gartner). Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst, Enderle Group asserts, “It is part of Google’s strategy to eventually displace Microsoft. If it is successfully able to get into the market, one would definitely think of incorporating a platform which is an open source and can be customised...”

What would however stand in favour of Google is its brand that has earned a reputation for being simple, user-friendly and secure. This also means that Google might just be able to get its software loaded onto low-cost PCs and notebooks, a field where Microsoft has failed miserably so far. Technically, the Android OS is based on the Linux operating system and is open to any programmer who wants to develop features for it. As per Gartner, today, Linux accounts for about 15% of the mini-notebook market compared to 85% of Windows. The report further went on to reveal that Linux had less than 1% share in overall OS market; this therefore is also an opportunity for Linux to gain good ground. Android would carry forward all the features of Linux, which definitely makes it a safer and more secure OS than Windows. For instance, it will be based on a multi-user design, built from ground-up to isolate users from applications, files and directories that affect the entire OS. Each user will be given a directory where all the data files and configurations will be stored. Thus, it becomes impossible to send a virus through email to an Android user. On the other hand, Windows has only recently evolved from a single-user design to a multi-user!

Then there is the modular design that Android would ape. From the kernel (the core “brains” of Android) to the applications, no two application would be inextricably intertwined with any other application in the OS. This is an advantage over the Windows OS which basically is monolithic in design (and not modular). The OS will also not be constrained by a Remote Procedure Call (RPC) model which are potentially security threats. An RPC is when one program sends a message over a network to tell another program to calculate something and then return the result. The reason it is called RPC is because it is immaterial whether the parent program is running on the same computer, or any other cube over the internet, anywhere. (Un)Fortunately, this is also where Android scores over Windows, as Windows users reply heavily on the RPC model which can’t be disabled even with firewalls!

Finally, the Android would be ideal for ‘headless’ (system hardware sans the monitor) non-local administration. For servers, this is often the ideal type of arrangement needed as a remotely administered server is not exposed to the same risks of security breach as a locally administered server. Really, it’s too early to predict whether Google will do to Os what it did to SEs (Search Engines, of course!). The interesting part of the story is how Windows reacts to the change in OS market dynamics... Perhaps, Microsoft has finally found a real worthy adversary; the war is on (hell ya)!

Arun Kumar Roy

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2009

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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