This comparison of the Unix and Microsoft NT/Win2K/XP operating systems is written from the point of view of one technical user - someone who spends some time with system administration, some with scientific and database application programming, and the remainder doing documentation, e-mail, web browsing, and following a small number of news groups.
Like many over the last few years, I've watched Microsoft's push from the desktop into the server market in particular with some misgivings. Probably the greatest fear of all has been the implicit threat to open standards. The networking aspects of commercial unix (SunOS, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, Linux etc) have always rested on a solid foundation of the freely available RFCs (Requests For Comment). And because the free 'nixes such as Linux (GNU), FreeBSD, and so on, are available in source form, they're completely open by definition.
The effect of closed, proprietary standards such as those employed by Microsoft and other vendors is to automatically close off software development in the affected areas to anyone except the companies concerned. And where such companies can manage to gain a monopoly market share, the incentive to improve a product in real terms all but disappears.
A more serious problem, as we're now seeing, is that Microsoft have established such a fierce hold on the PC Operating Systems market (with Windows 98, XP, 2000, and so on) that they're now in a position to kill off any MS Windows applications which are built on open standards. These include network products such as Netscape, and the various E-Mailers, which Microsoft have all but destroyed by simply shipping their own, "free" versions (Internet Explorer and Outlook) as part of their OS distributions. Attempts through the U.S. court system to break up this patently obvious Microsoft monopoly have, unfortunately, failed so far.
One bright light has continued to shine. Microsoft's original attempt to destroy the open-standards based Internet...