One thing I have noticed that is missing from the Linux & Windows discussions today is about the most important compatibility of all, and that's human compatibility.
Time and time again, Microsoft product versions have become more difficult to adapt to. There's always a learning curve with every new release. This curve belies some serious dollars in productivity and to our small businesses today; every dollar is critical.
Let's look at the last 3 years or so and imagine the dramatic impacts of this on business.
First of all, Exchange Server 2007 (to include Outlook 2007) is a significant departure in the standard for the Exchange line. Where once we had GUI interfaces to do the management of critical business functions, we now had to learn a whole new cryptic system for making these changes in a command shell.
Outlook 2003 was enough of a departure from the status quo, taking the always-present and highly-configurable Outlook Bar away and hiding it behind everything and calling it Shortcuts. I won't even go into how many gripes I've heard about the default grouping for message display.
Microsoft Office 2007 brought another dramatic change, which left users bewildered and I daresay on the precipice of madness. In fact I know of at least two small businesses that felt the investment in the software THEY ALREADY MADE IN 2007 did not justify the crippling blow to productivity that deploying it would cause. They trusted Microsoft enough to buy the software, but when they saw it in pre-deployment testing, they pulled the plug on the project.
Vista... Ok I'll let that horse rest in peace.
Ok so what has the Open Source community been doing?
They are making window managers more compatible with how people are USED to working.
Operating system installers have not only achieved ease-of-install parity with Windows XP, but in Ubuntu's case it's been surpassed.
Even office productivity suites like Open Office have been working hard to become fully compatible with Microsoft Office; and can with near transparency, work with MS Office software without losing a beat.
Microsoft has made great strides in trying to get people to BUY and adapt to their products, while the Open Source community is succeeding in adapting the FREE products to the people who use them.
The announcement of Windows 7 and other upcoming Microsoft products indicates that is a trend not likely to change anytime soon, but Open Source has some fantastic momentum and in an economic downturn; a great opportunity.