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Comparisons between the Microsoft Windows and Linux computer operating systems are a long-running discussion topic within the personal computer industry. Throughout the entire period of the Windows 9x systems through the introduction of Windows 7, Windows has retained an extremely large retail sales majority among operating systems for personal desktop use, while Linux has sustained its status as the most prominent free software operating system. After their initial clash, both operating systems moved beyond the user base of the personal computer market and share a rivalry on a variety of other devices, with offerings for the server and embedded systems markets, and mobile internet access.
Linux and Microsoft Windows differ in philosophy, cost, versatility and stability, with each seeking to improve in their perceived weaker areas. Comparisons of the two operating systems tend to reflect their origins, historic user bases and distribution models. Typical perceived weaknesses regularly cited have often included poor consumer familiarity with Linux, and Microsoft Windows’ susceptibility to viruses and malware.
Proponents of free software argue that the key strength of Linux is the degree of freedom allowed to the users, as embodied in The Free Software Definition: “the freedom to run the program [such as Linux]…to study…and change it…the freedom to redistribute copies…[and] improve the program, and release your improvements. Some fear that this “freedom of choice” primarily offers choices that are not pertinent to the mainstream majority of computer users.