Linux Live CDs, the One Feature Microsoft and Apple Haven't Copied Yet

This is a feature that will remain in the Linux ecosystem for a long time

By Silviu Stahie on May 14th, 2014 07:24 GMT

There is a silent battle going on behind the curtains between the major operating systems. When it comes to gaming, for example, Windows is still the leader. If we're talking about Linux, then everyone knows that it owns the server market. Mac OS X looks pretty and has a few applications that are still making the system a tool for media production. When it comes to Live systems, neither Windows nor Mac OS X can hold a candle to Linux.

What is exactly happening with the Live version for Windows and Mac OS X? The companies that build these systems didn't shy away from “borrowing” features they liked from Linux, so why aren't they also taking the idea of a Live CD?

One of the most attractive features of various Linux OSes is, by far, the ability to run them as Live CDs, which means that users can enjoy the full functionality of an operating system without having to install it.

There are some limitations to what a Live system can actually do, and almost no one uses a Live environment only. Most Linux users install their systems, but there is a minority that prefers to only use Live systems, like Eduard Snowden, because it helps remain anonymous.

Linux operating systems (and BSD-based) have been around forever and most of the distributions you can download today will provide this option, with the exception of servers, firewalls, and a few others.

The main benefit of this feature is the fact that users can check out the new operating system and decide if they want to use it. If a user thinks that the new OS is not worth the install, they restart and that’s the end of it.

The Live CD has evolved, like any other piece of software, in the open source world. When users were still dependent on normal CDs and DVDs, you couldn't do much with a Live image, but once the USB memories became cheaper, the Hybrid images emerged.

The hybrid Live image allows users to make modifications to the operating system that survive the restart. If you take a screenshot of the desktop and save it, you will find it in the same place after the restart. If you install a package, the same principle applies. The former Live CDs have evolved into something that is almost as alive as a normal operating system.

So, what is happening with Microsoft and Apple? Why aren't any Live system out there officially built by the companies? I understand that there are some issues with licenses, but that can be easily solved. Microsoft can release a Windows 8 Live version, very limited in its functions, which would allow users to see if they like the new UI before actually buying the product. That sounds insane and probably goes against every businesses practice from Microsoft that probably says purchase first, test later.

The same goes for Apple. There are no Live images for Mac OS X and there is no sign that something akin to it will ever exist. There are some attempts made by the communities of both OSes, but the major releases for Windows ended with the XP version, and the Live Mac OS versions are several years old.

It looks like the Live ISOs are just one of the few features introduced by Linux developers that are not going to end up in either Windows or Mac OS X.
Live CDs are a Linux feature
   Live CDs are a Linux feature