Bang On: We Need a Third Party in Operating System Politics

With the release of the Consumer Preview for Windows 8, the internet has been up in arms about the drastic interface changes as Microsoft, in a not so subtle way, shoves Metro down our throats even more. I could go into all the problems I see in the operating system, but others already have and will continue to do so. The one realization that really struck me, however, is how the world of operating systems is more and more like the world of American politics. Simply put: We need a third viable party to help balance things out.

I’m a Windows fan. Not a fanboy. I have always used the operating system and have always believed it to be the best option, partially because I was used to it but also because everything in the world supports it. Hell, I half expect the bottle of seltzer on my desk to be fully Windows compatible. While not perfect, the OS has remained consistent in how we interact with it. There’s a space on the screen and in that space you can place boxes of information and switch between them or look at them all at once. Simple enough. Windows has remained the perfect Republican candidate for years. It’s cool with the consumer, but really loves the big corporations. Its newest front runner, Windows 8, however, does seem a little bit crazy and that’s being kind about it.

On the other side of the fence we have Apple with their operating system, OS X. It has been just as consistent through its various evolutions as Windows has. Screen space, boxes of information, and access to some of it or all of it at once. OS X has grown more and more compatible over the years and I hear Apple will release their own iSeltzer next year which will make my bottle look like plain old water. Apple is the Democratic candidate that wows us with its finesse and seeming lack of insanity. For a guy like me, it probably wouldn’t work out well, but OS X has some ideas that we can all agree on. Of course, in Apple’s world, if you want to vote Democrat, you have to vote Democrat across the board from president all the way down to school crossing guard. You're either all in or you’re all out with no room to compromise. That really bad analogy is hinting at the fact that you have to buy the hardware, too, folks.

So, what about the need for that third party? Who can it be? I know what everyone is expecting me to write next. You probably want me to say that Linux is that candidate that we so desperately need. I’m not convinced that’s entirely the case, though. The problem with the current state of Linux is that, well, there are so many versions and everything is so damn fragmented. Linux is like the Green Party. There are a bunch of good ideas, but they're so poorly focused and disorganized that none of it really clicks with the general public. On top of that, none of the companies producing distributions have the connection with both the consumer and consumer electronic worlds to be able to garner enough support to release something that’s as cool as OS X but as universally supported as Windows. I don’t want iSeltzer or Seltzer+; I just want my bottle of Seltzer.

The third candidate, as much as I hate to say it because they’re already way too confident, needs to be Google. No, not with that ChromeOS nonsense that presents the crazy idea that the entirety of your PC needs can be presented by a web browser. Seriously, Google, that's a crazy idea. Instead, Google needs to step up with a viable option, probably based on Linux, and come to the market with it. Google has, in my not so humble opinion, the ability to take the crazy Green Party candidate that is Linux and turn it into something that actually connects with the general masses. Even if that new party can’t get enough votes come election time to win the race, maybe it would be enough to convince the Republicans and Democrats that they need to change a few things or at least give me back my damn windowed desktop environment!

Am I proud of the fact that part of me is begging Google, of all companies, to come and save me from the scary choice of Windows 8 and its lack of intuitiveness or OS X and its expensive hardware? No. However, when you look at the market, Google is one of the few companies with the clout to actually do something about anything. I don’t want Windows Phone on my PC and I don’t want to have to throw away some really nice hardware just to switch operating systems. I want someone to come along and give me something as good as or better than Windows 7; something that works for me and never leads me astray. However, I don’t want to waste my votes or time on a crazy Green party candidate who has no real power in the consumer desktop world. The third choice needs to be viable and useful. Ironically enough, the third party candidate needs to be to the PC what Windows Phone is to the mobile space. So, for now, I look towards Google as I take a sip from my bottle of Seltzer and pray the Republicans and Democrats don’t take the fizz out of my drink and the enjoyment out of my PC. 

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