I was really impressed with Dave Gutteridge's look at how piracy benefits MSFT in terms of Windows use and Linux adoption. This is something that we've all discussed to some degree before but I haven't really seen this degree of thinking through the entire process. The huge amount of home (and business users although they're usually more careful about casual disclosure) users of Windows really do think of it as something that is either obtained free by purchasing a new computer or something that a friend has a copy of that is two steps away in personal relationships for having in hand. Pair that with the fact that many people don't do their own installs, upgrades, or break/fix support once the computer is actually set up and you've got a fair amount of distance between the average casual computer user and what operating system they're using. Anyway, his breakdown is much more interesting than my halfass summary. He's using this as way to look at the perceived slowdown of Linux adoption:
This idea that Windows is, to most everyone, effectively free, is in my opinion the single most significant factor in explaining why Linux isn't doing better than it is.
I'm not even saying that Linux would or should necessarily dominate or wipe out Windows. I'm only saying that if the market for operating systems operated under the same rules as other consumer goods, then Linux would have a larger share of the market.
If every user who had a cracked copy of Windows had a legitimate version of Linux instead, what would the percentage of computers running Linux be? More than there are now, that's for sure.
Go check it if this is something you've ever thought much about or if using Linux is something that you've hemmed and hawed about because you're still staggering around under the assumption that Linux won't do most of the things that you need to do for general desktop computing. It seems strange that this is still such a popular conception but, hey, the OS market operates under its own set of completed tweaked rules.