ReactOS – Open Source Windows

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Now here is a wacky idea! Would that not make Bill Gates have sleepless nights, even though he no longer runs Microsoft. One such company and a set of brilliant entrepreneurs are doing just that at ReactOS. They might risk getting sued by Microsoft or some Unix folks in the coming months for mimicking some proprietary features or patent infringement, but if everyone keeps their cool then it is as wacky as it is brilliant. Here is why.

The operating system under consideration, ReactOS, is based on the earlier versions of Windows. Hence, it is not really directly competi
ng with Vista or even XP. Hence, we wont be seeing it running on modern PCs anytime soon.

The PC world still has hundreds of millions of old PCs being used around the world dating back to the original Pentium machines when Microsoft’s Windows 95 actually came out. Such PCs rely on Windows 2000 or earlier versions to run smoothly as they lack the processing power and memory among other limitations to run anything newer. However, Microsoft does not officially support any versions older than XP and even XP will become unsupported within a couple of years. Now, those PCs that were manufactured for XP and earlier hardware will suddenly be without a supported OS unless they do an expensive upgrade to run newer OS like Vista. Hence, many of these old boxes end up running one of the Open source Linux distributions, like Fedora, Ubuntu or SUSE. Since Microsoft does not want to support its older OS versions, ReactOS would be an ideal choice for folks to switch to rather than migrating to Linux.

Another important aspect of supporting ReactOS is for legacy software applications. The moment Microsoft stops supporting an older version, the software applications written for them are also lost and slowly die out with time. But letting companies like ReactOS grow, the legacy applications will enjoy a new life and a new set of users worldwide.

A third important factor is the developing economies around the world. Most of these economies do not purchase any licensed software as it is way too expensive to buy Microsoft products which at times can cost many months salary of an average individual. Once again ReactOS could easily be used in such markets and introduced to users as a viable alternative for MS-Windows. Once they are affluent enough to purchase a license they can easily switch to Microsoft. Till then, MS can hope to keep them loyal to one of Windows clones rather than losing them to Linux or worse to pirated Windows.

In hindsight, Microsoft should support such operating systems as it will only create a healthy competition for Linux based distributions. Besides, there is a good chance, Microsoft team might learn a thing or two about making their OS more reliable and scalable.

So keep an eye out for ReactOS and other such wacky startups as they might change the way windows is used in the coming years.

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9 Responses to ReactOS – Open Source Windows

  1. L4Linux says:

    Losing a user to Linux is much worse to MS, then pirating. Because the user with the illegal copy, may eventually purchase a license or pay the so-called “MS tax”. But if he switches to Linux, they have lost him forever and he/she will probably convert more users to Linux. Look at netbooks; they dropped the price of XP to profound levels and would even give it for free (until netbooks are fast enough to run Vista), to avoid losing users to Linux.

  2. Emil Beli says:

    I really can’t see why this project is born, if not for pure fun. Then I support it. Otherwise, there is no point.

  3. Shane says:

    The OS has been in development for a long time.

  4. Evan says:

    This is a pretty old project. It is still in progress thought.

  5. This project is tied to wine. I believe it is one or more developers from the wine project. I think it is a cool idea and if I remember correctly ReactOS did an internal audit to make sure they were not infringing on any known MS patents.

  6. Dwayne says:

    The audit was to check that people hadn’t lifted code from MS code that was leaked onto the Internet.

    ReactOS does benefit from WINE, all the changes to Windows DLLs done in Wine are ported across to ReactOS. I’m not sure how much goes the other way though.

    I don’t think I’m as excited as you about people using ReactOS instead of pirating, but if that exposes them to FOSS its a good thing. Wine provides the same legacy application benefit to these users.

    But its a cool project and hacking is about having fun.

  7. twickline says:

    Unix and Wine makes more sense to me, I say Unix because Wine runs on BSD, OpenSolaris, and OSX as well. With support options I see allot of people choosing Unix and Wine in the future.

  8. Jay says:

    I tried using ReactOS. Many of my programs crashed, a lot. Apparently MS has a lot of undocumented bugs / features that are hard to pick apart and reimplement. I wouldn’t say it’s usable yet, but they have a great vision. I hope it gets there, some day.

  9. M3EEKS says:

    ReactOS aims to be NT (NT4, XP, 2003) compatible. It is not aimed at older hardware, and aims to be a free equal replacement for Windows. It is not suitable for every day use yet & is very much in Alpha.
    Not everyone needs just a *nix OS. ReactOS will allow ppl needing to run Windows, whether virtually or otherwise, to have a free oss option.

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