Eight features Windows 8 borrowed from Linux

Linux got there first, but does Windows do it better?

By , ITworld |  Open Source, Linux, Microsoft

4. The Metro UI

The basic idea for the Metro UI appeared in Media Center and Zune hardware more than 5 years ago. When you use the Metro UI for the first time, you'll see that it's a very unique way of working with a device. But Microsoft didn't pioneer the idea.

Various Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, and the GNOME desktop environment, have tried to overhaul the user interface to fit the "one UI to rule them all" approach before Microsoft did. There's no denying that updates to the UI of Linux, especially Ubuntu, were made specifically with tablets in mind. But even the most ardent Linux users admit that touch support could by no means be called anything other than half-baked.

The Microsoft twist: Microsoft is taking a very risky step in making the new Metro UI the default view of the new OS, but it's also much more comfortable to use either with touch or a pen.

5. Social integration

Linux distributions -- notably Ubuntu -- have, for a long time now, included social media integration by default. The "Me" menu, which first appeared in early alpha versions of Ubuntu 10.04, allows you to update your status to all your accounts and get important feeds directly to your desktop. And when Microsoft finally added its Tweet@Rama, Photo Picker and Socialite app to the developer preview, loyal Linux users again pointed out that this has been done before.

The Microsoft twist: No twist here. Microsoft was simply late to catch on to the trend.

6. Native support for USB 3.0

In their very first blog post, the Building 8 folks explained their new native USB 3.0 stack and, of course, that news was greeted with comments of the "Linux has been doing that for three years" variety.

The Microsoft twist: Move along. Nothing to see here. USB 3.0 devices work pretty well with Windows 7 already since hardware manufacturers provide their own drivers. Microsoft just finally implemented an industry standard.

7. Cloud integration

Both Windows 8 and Linux sport features that let you sync data with the cloud. In Ubuntu 11, the Ubuntu One service offers a free online backup service with 5 GB. If you want more storage space, there's always the option of purchasing an additional 20 GB for $2.99 a month.

The Microsoft twist: Windows 8 is going to tightly integrate with SkyDrive's 25 GB online storage, which is not just for photos or music, but also allows for hosting your user account (personal settings, backgrounds, some data...) for you to log in from anywhere.

Ubuntu, however, counters with their new Music Streaming service.

8. ReFS

The newly introduced ReFS (Resilient File System, codenamed Protogon) is Microsoft's next-generation file system. It will first debut in Windows Server 8, but client adoption is well underway.

The system itself is strikingly similar to ZFS (the Z File System) and the Linux-derived Btrfs (B-tree file system) as it also supports copy-on-write snapshots when coupled with Microsoft Storage Spaces. For further security, it also provides integrity checksums and B+ Trees. Also, the increased file/volume/directory sizes are also strikingly similar to Btrfs.

The Microsoft twist: Let's just say that Microsoft didn't do anything from scratch. While I did not dive deep into the file system drivers, I suspect that Microsoft looked very hard at some of the principles that worked years ago in both ZFS and then Btrfs and got the "inspiration" to develop something very similar.

Stealing or innovating?

While I won't deny that Microsoft has "borrowed" many ideas from the open source world, overall they're trying to find their own game in Windows 8.

This article, "Eight features Windows 8 'borrowed' from Linux," was originally published at ITworld. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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