This has been around for a long time, but I'd never heard of it: ReactOS is an open-source re-implementation of Windows. I guess it's possible to be fanatically devoted to both Windows and open source. As mammoth a task as this sounds, it seems they are making progress. Although they've been at it for about ten years, they have screenshots of working code, and an active subversion repository (they're working on DirectX support now).

I wonder what the future will hold for ReactOS. Microsoft will continue to build Windows, widening the gap between what Windows and ReactOS are, though if the reaction to Vista is any indication, perhaps XP and its ReactOS clone will be considered the golden age of Windows. At the same time, anti-Microsoft sentiment will continue to build among the open source community, either in the pro-Linux or pro-Apple flavor.

tagged:   /   via: eric sink» 10 reactions

Comments

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Charles Darke 8:03 AM on 29 Apr 2008

It's ancient and based on windows 95, from what I remember. If they ever get it to a state where it's usable, it will already be obsolete.

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Charles Darke 8:06 AM on 29 Apr 2008

My bad, looks like it is NT based. Could have sworn it was Win95 - maybe earlier on in the project?

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Michael Foord 8:10 AM on 29 Apr 2008

Well - with the number of people who proclaim that they are desperate to keep XP, they may have some following...

Do you think anti-Microsoft is continuing to grow?

With other desktop alternatives growing, Microsoft's nastier habits being solidly slapped down by the EU, and Microsoft launching and being committed to genuinely open source projects I don't see this as true.

In fact I think that *parts* of Microsoft have realised that they *have* to engage with the open source community and being seen to contribute to it. With Microsoft less of a 'threat', perhaps we will enter a time of less rabid anti-Microsoft sentiment...

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ricegf 8:08 AM on 30 Apr 2008

Do you think anti-Microsoft is continuing to grow?

Microsoft is hurting their own cause by "killing" XP on June 30 over strong consumer objection. (Killing is in quotes because they will allow it for ultralight PCs, and Dell is using a loophole in the Vista license to ship it even though it will be counted as a Vista sale.) Many technophiles, at least, consider this arrogance and obnoxiousness on Microsoft's part, and this keeps the anti-Microsoft flames burning brightly.

At the same time, Mac sales share is now 12% (I believe) and still growing. Linux desktop usage is growing past 4% of the installed base, with pre-installs by major computer vendors helping it along. Ubuntu 8.04 is receiving rave reviews and a surprising amount of mainstream press.

So... yes, I think the backlash is growing, and viable alternatives bode ill for their future. Microsoft could reverse it with a few well-chosen steps (give up on Vista, simplify licensing, take a few pro-consumer stands for a change). Will they? Doubt it.

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Michael Foord 8:31 AM on 30 Apr 2008

"Microsoft is hurting their own cause by "killing" XP"

And that annoys the open source community how? :-)

"Linux desktop usage is growing past 4% of the installed base"

Much as I want to see diversity on the desktop, I think this is quite an 'overestimate'. The W3C site trackers recently had Linux browsers going over 2% for the first time ever! Their sites (being geek oriented) are likely to overestimate desktop coverage.

Despite this, increased diversity makes Microsoft less of a threat - and should reduce animosity...

Giving up on Vista would be a very public suicide for Microsoft. Their 'escape route' seems to be to more closely integrate Windows Server 2008 (which has been much better received than Vista) and to fast track Windows 7.

Whether this will work, help or harm is still irrelevant to the question of whether animosity towards Microsoft is growing. Again, increased diversity should not make Microsoft *more* of an enemy to the OS community but less.

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ricegf 5:32 AM on 1 May 2008

Much as I want to see diversity on the desktop, I think this is quite an 'overestimate'.

Could be. Estimating the installed base of Linux is a black art at best, although measuring the number of Linux browsers accessing "typical" sites is a very problematic methodology. For example, many Linux users I know at work personally configure their browser to report "Microsoft Windows XP", because some pages at my employer refuse to load otherwise.

My estimate is based on (1) 12 million unique IP addresses accessing the Ubuntu patch servers, and assuming slightly more than 1 Ubuntu computer per IP address due to NAT; (2) assuming Ubuntu is about 1/3 of the Linux installed base, using figures from distrowatch.org; and (3) Steve Ballmer's assertion that about 1 billion computers are in the world now. Grab an old envelope and pen, carry the one, ... well, you can do the math.

But these facts and myriad assumptions are far from solid enough to "prove" a 4% installed base, any more than the method you quote "proves" 2%.

...increased diversity should not make Microsoft *more* of an enemy to the OS community but less.

More to the point, animosity != enemy. Animosity can be (and I believe is) growing at the same time that Microsoft's lock on the desktop market is declining, albeit slowly right now. In other words, inversely proportional, not proportional.

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Ned Batchelder 5:49 AM on 1 May 2008

I'm afraid the "animosity != enemy" point is exactly right. There are a number of not-so-noble factors that could add to this. It is easy to demonize the vanquished enemy, easy to ridicule the once powerful, easy to despise the spurned, and very easy to hate those that have turned their back on you. Especially since we are talking about Microsoft's blunder with Vista and XP: there will be customers who feel that Microsoft has ignored them, and therefore switch operating systems. Those customers will be part of the reason Microsoft is losing power, and also part of the reason they are more reviled than ever.

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Michael Foord 6:50 AM on 1 May 2008

Possibly.

On the other hand I think that parts of Microsoft are *starting* to *get* Open Source.

For example, the IronRuby project just opened up their repository to some external commiters and there are moves for IronPython to start taking external contributions.

Large new projects, like their ASP.NET MVC framework, are being released as Open Source.

I think Microsoft are a bit schizophrenic in their attitude to Open Source - but there are some good signs. Whilst those who 'love to hate' Microsoft may never *want* to be convinced, I don't see that animosity is growing...

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Dan Schwarz 11:41 PM on 1 May 2008

I've been tracking reactOS for a while now. They have a symbiotic relationship with the Wine project http://www.winehq.org and code flows back and forth between the two teams. Wine is now reaching its 1.0 release (after 10+ years) and it works surprisingly well. But ReactOS brings something to the table that Wine cannot - Windows device driver compatibility.

I don't foresee a lot of people installing ReactOS as a primary operating system, but I think it'll get a lot of use within virtual machines and server appliances. I can finally build my "Portable Windows on a USB stick" without going through Microsoft Windows reactivation hassles.

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James Urquhart 3:09 PM on 4 May 2008

Hey there.

I've been tracking the progress of ReactOS for many years now. Sadly though it is still missing lots of crucial functionality, not to mention usability. Thus i've never seriously used it.

I'm not too hopeful for the future of the project either. After all, the Windows goal post is constantly moving, and progress is comparatively slow.

But then again, who knows? Maybe we'll see ReactOS 1.0 within the next decade.

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