For those who may not know, ReactOS is an operating system that “aims to follow the Windows-NT® architecture designed by Microsoft from the hardware level right through to the application level”. By other words, the idea is to provide Windows XP-level compatibility with software and hardware.
Looks like a neat idea? Yes, indeed. An “open source Windows” system would has lots of applications, for example, in situations where demand for using open source software and common standards, instead of proprietary solutions, exists (like what happens, in theory, on some country governments).
Why it doesn’t work right? Well, nobody can say the project has been abandoned. It’s progressing, but very slow. I can’t blame the developers for the slowness: the task they’re doing is hard, and there aren’t many developers devoted to the project.
The latest version was released on March 2011, and it was just a tiny improvement over all that’s still missing. My only concern is, when they get a Windows XP compatibility that is good enough, won’t be XP as obsolete as Windows 95 is now? At the end, Windows XP is already more than 10 years old, and even some of the most recent software by its creator, Microsoft, doesn’t work on XP (e.g. IE 9 or the latest Live Messenger).
And another thing: if ReactOS gets noticed enough, won’t Microsoft try to squash them and send some juridical flames regarding e.g. stupid patents? Or even reverse engineering, although I don’t think they can be legitimately accused of doing it? Note that these questions may also apply for WINE and similar software, but up to now, it looks like they have been safe from Microsoft’s hammer.