The Digital Signage Insider

The question of Linux vs. Windows for Kiosks and Digital Signage

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The question of whether to use Linux or Windows software for a kiosk or digital signage project is obviously one very near and dear to my heart, since I am one of the founders of WireSpring, and our FireCast product line is one of a very few Linux-based products on the market for these types of projects.

Ever since corporate powerhouses like IBM, HP and even Sun jumped on the Linux bandwagon, it seems that everybody is trying to come up with a cogent argument for why Linux is better than Windows, or vice-versa. While there is no question that Windows, with it's 95%+ market share in the desktop arena dictates what is good and easy and expected and status-quo for desktop users, the picture is much more fuzzy when it comes to server-based, embedded and single-purpose applications, as any number of articles will purport to tell you. While everybody agrees that running a free copy of Linux on a $2,000,000 IBM zSeries mainframe is more expensive than running a $500 copy of Windows on a $1,500 PC from Dell, no study, research publication or "news" site can tell you whether Windows or Linux is right for your project.

At WireSpring, we obviously believe in Linux as an operating platform for kiosk and digital signage applications. We gain all of the strengths of Linux, like built in security features and rock-solid reliability, without having to worry about its weaknesses, like the lack of certain software applications important for desktop use. In addition, with access to all of the source-code for the Linux kernel and various open source applications that we use, we can optimize the entire operating system for use in kiosks or digital signs.

Since we don't have to worry about the perceived limitations of Linux systems, our purpose-built approach to kiosk and digital signage software is gaining a lot of attention in the industry. In fact, one of our competitors has even gone to the lengths of setting up a "Micellaneous[sic] FAQ" to discuss the situation. They make some good points about computer software in general, but in the end I'm left with the impression that they're trying to defend why Windows is still a good choice for signage applications. In addition, statements like, "you can write a 'leaky' (eats memory until it crashes) on ANY operating system, Linux or Windows," aside from being in need of a good proof-read, are not 100% true, due to some very technical differences between the way Windows and Linux systems work. However, Scala does note that, "the trick is to understand and test," which I do wholeheartedly agree with. Of course, since FireCast doesn't have to lug around all of the desktop-oriented baggage that a Windows system does, we have a lot less testing to do. This again seems to be a point in our favor.

I appreciate the gains in stability that Windows has made over the years. I'm still a Windows desktop user, and the fewer of Windows errors that I see, the better. But when you need a secure, reliability, remotely-managed operating system, "better" isn't good enough.


-2 # pfff 2013-10-07 18:48
+2 # Bill Gerba 2013-10-07 19:06
Thanks for adding your valuable insight to this nearly 10-year-old blog post! :)

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