The "Save XP petition" asking Microsoft to keep Windows XP available indefinitely, not end most sales on June 30 as currently planned, has prompted many readers to suggest that maybe the best answer for those who don't like Vista is to switch to another operating system completely.
"Don't be afraid. Just switch to Linux and become a member of a really free society," wrote Carlos Raul Gutierrez.
"Windows Vista was the reason I bought a Mac mini. I didn't want my only choices to be an operating system that would soon be obsolete (XP) or one that was buggy and would break much existing hardware (Vista), and I'm not enough of a geek to use Linux (do things from the command line? Puhleeze...)," wrote "Jack."
How realistic is a switch to Linux or Apple's Mac OS X? For some users -- often technically savvy people such as engineers, consultants, designers and CTOs -- it is clearly an option that already works quite well. In the past year, running Mac OS X or Linux as your default OS has been made easier by the capability to run Windows in a virtual machine, giving you access to both Windows-only applications and Web sites that rely on Microsoft's Internet Explorer-only ActiveX technology. But in a business environment, switching to a Mac or Linux PC may not be quite as easy.
The Mac OS X option
Of the plausible alternatives to Windows, Apple's Mac OS X has the largest market share and history. InfoWorld chief technologist Tom Yager has written that the latest version of the Mac OS, Leopard (10.5), is simply the best operating system available. And Macs are indeed popping up more frequently even within IT circles -- I've seen more MacBook Pros in the hands of CTOs and IT execs at conferences in the past year more than I've seen Mac notebooks in such venues ever. Although there are no real numbers on just the business adoption of Macs, it's clear that Apple is in growth mode, gaining an increasing proportion of all new computer sales for more than a year now.
Yager has chronicled the adventures of one PC user who switched to the Mac OS, showing that for an individual, the conversion was ultimately a rewarding one.
A key tool for any Mac OS X switcher is a virtual machine to run Windows for those apps and Web sites that require it. Both Parallels Desktop 3.0 and EMC VMware's Fusion software will do the trick, as a comparative review has shown.
Although Macs are compatible with most typical hardware, such as monitors and drives, fitting a Mac into an enterprise's management systems and ERP applications can be a different story. Yager's Mac Enterprise blog and the Mac Enterprise user group both provide advice on managing Macs in a traditional IT environment.