While Windows 8 was announced amidst much fanfare, Canonical announced its Ubuntu 12.10 ‘Quantal Quetzal’ a week before the former was launched. Let’s evaluate the two from the users’ point of view and see what would be a wiser choice:
Default user interface:
It was widely reported in the media, hence, it is a known fact that both Microsoft and Canonical were criticised for their default user interfaces: Modern UI for Windows 8 and Unity for Ubuntu 12.10. Users may take time getting used to the Modern UI, Unity on the other hand has been tweaked enough, with some pointing out that it may appear more familiar than the Modern UI for Windows users.
Ability to customize:
While Windows 8 users can customise a few bits like the size of Live Tile icons or grouping tiles as per the program you choose, but majorly it is a ‘tightly coupled interface’ wherein there is not much you can change. On the other hand, Linux is known for its ability to offer customisation. In case of Ubuntu’s Unity, users are free to replace it with several free alternatives. The list includes KDE, Xfce, LXDE, GNOME 3 Shell, Cinnamon, and MATE. You also have third-party customisation tools like Ubuntu Tweak.
Choice of apps:
While Windows 8 Pro comes along with Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 browser, Ubuntu 12.10 comes with a huge range of open-source software packages, which include Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, allowing a complete suite of functionality. According to a PC World report, “Dating back to 2009, the Ubuntu Software Center now houses more than 40,000 apps, ranging from games to productivity tools to educational resources. In addition, by using Wine or CodeWeaver's CrossOver, you can run Windows programs on top of Linux. The Windows Store just launched with Windows 8, and at the time of its debut it included just over 9000 apps.”
Compatibility with hardware:
Microsoft says that to run Windows 8 on your PC, you'll need a processor that's 1GHz or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2. Not only that, you also need a minimum of 1GB RAM for the 32-bit version or 2GB for the 64-bit version, along with 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit) of space on your hard drive. For graphics, you require Microsoft DirectX 9-compatible graphics device with a WDDM driver. This is especially important if you want to make full use of the new OS functionality. Ubuntu is much more modest in that respect. All you need is 512 MB RAM along with 5 GB on hard drive.
Ever since Ubuntu One was launched in 2009, cloud has been pivotal for Ubuntu Linux users allowing them to store files online and sync them among computers and mobile devices. It works on Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android, as well as on Ubuntu. While Ubuntu Linux users get 5GB of Ubuntu One storage for free, 20GB will cost them $30 per year. According to a PC World report, “Beginning with Ubuntu 12.10, the OS also integrates Web apps and online searches directly into the Unity desktop for a more seamless experience. With Windows 8, the cloud is coming to the forefront of Microsoft's platform as well. For storage, Microsoft's SkyDrive offers users 7GB of space for free. If you need more than that, you can have an extra 20GB for $10, 50GB for $25, or 100GB for $50 annually.” Broadly, Ubuntu is not superior to Windows in terms of cloud integration.