Windows vs. Linux vs. OS X

CIO John Halamka reviews the desktop operating system contenders in search of the next-generation office computer.

By Meridith Levinson

CIO

Introduction


John Halamka has a penchant for experiments with new
technologies. In 2004, the now 44-year-old CIO of the Harvard Medical School and CareGroup, which runs the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who is also a practicing emergency room physician, was one of the first people to have an RFID chip containing a link to his medical records implanted in his body (it's near his right triceps.) Next April, he and Harvard geneticist George Church will become the first humans to have their DNA sequenced and their full genetic makeup posted on the Web.

But as a health-care administrator, he's not solely interested in testing the cutting-edge, Orwellian technologies that make headlines. The PCs inside the hospital have to work too. So when Halamka's laptop running Windows XP interrupted several presentations with inopportune antivirus and application updates, he decided his next big initiative would be to determine which desktop operating system—Windows XP, Apple's OS X or Linux—is the most secure, most reliable and easiest to use in a corporate environment.

For three months, Halamka ditched his Windows laptop. He replaced it first with a MacBook running OS X. Then he spent a month using a Lenovo ThinkPad X41 running a dual-boot configuration of Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation and Red Hat Fedora Core. Finally, he took up a Dell D420 subnotebook running Microsoft's Windows XP. After evaluating all three to determine which worked best for him, he plans to begin testing his preferred setup with users, most of whose desktops currently run Windows.

Halamka judged the three operating systems according to a variety of criteria including their performance, user interfaces and enterprise management capabilities, such as the ability to configure applications, easily organize file systems, and establish granular security control. We followed Halamka's progress, and now we have his conclusions. We've also ask three other experts to take a look at Halamka's findings and add their own insights.

Introduction (Part 2) >>

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