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TECH TALK: The Indianised Linux Desktop: Views on The Linux Desktop (Part 2)

November 28th, 2001 · No Comments

Writing in ComputerWorld, Miguel De Icaza, CTO and co-founder of Ximian, provides an overview of Linux in the corporate market.

With the proven success of Linux-based servers for mission-critical business applications, many have asked when Linux on the corporate desktop will also take off. While Linux distributions and key server technologies such as Apache and Samba power up to a third of corporate Web, database and file servers, widespread adoption of Linux for end-user desktops at the expense of Microsoft Windows has seemed like the promise of a distant future.

Until now.

The penetration of Linux into corporate desktops has already begun as research and development departments, technology companies, retail powerhouses and even national governments turn to Linux and free software for its superiority as a development environment, its easier customization and its lower cost of ownership relative to Windows-based systems. To move beyond its current 2% market share (according to a figure published by IDC in March), though, the Linux desktop must be easier to use and offer the file compatibility and suite of productivity applications that users need while simplifying the management of constantly enhanced open-source software.

Writes Stephen E. Harris, Publisher of ConsultingTimes.com:

Linux is still seen as a geek OS running servers and networks, and there is no desktop distribution with significant brand recognition among potential users. The market space is huge — for every server there are any number of desktops and work stations — but the current advice for most Windows users is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That could quickly change once a robust, inexpensive Linux desktop emerges.

It is often said that Microsoft Windows “owns” the desktop market, but operating systems, unlike detergents and automobiles, are peculiar commodities that are not “consumed” in the ordinary sense, nor do they wear out on their own accord. Now that the Windows OS is ubiquitous, Microsoft is forced to compete against its past success. They seem to have settled on a .NET strategy of software leasing as the best means to churn its customer base and generate a continuous revenue stream. This entails a new licensing model which strips away software ownership, and client control over the upgrade path. Shades of the old IBM hardware monopoly, when customers were obliged to lease their
tabulating machines and computers.

Microsoft will succeed in squeezing more revenues from existing clients, but at the cost of creating resistance in companies that relinquish software ownership and watch their MIS budgets spin out of control. As an open, robust, controllable, alternative that can save thousands, even millions of dollars annually, the Linux OS and desktop will inevitably appear on corporate radar screens.

Writes Bryan Pfaffenberger, Associate Professor of Technology, Culture, and Communication at the University of Virginia:

I predict that Linux’s share of the desktop market will begin to grow, slowly at first but then steadily, just as soon as:

(1) Corporate purchasers and consumers start to feel the pull of Linux. This won’t happen unless Microsoft succeeds in its bid to greatly reduce the incidence of unauthorized software duplication. I am not certain that this will occur.

(2) Ill will toward Microsoft builds to critical mass. I am certain that Microsoft executives are sufficiently out of touch with reality that this one is a safe bet.

If (1) happens (possible), and (2) happens (probable), then Law No. 3 kicks in, push magnifies pull, and the move to the Linux desktop accelerates. And as the phenomenon mounts, all the other so-called indispensable “pull” components–filesystem standardization, a growing pool of great applications, enhanced ease of use, and readily available peripherals–will fall into place. I hope.

Hidden among all these statements are the answers to how Linux can be leveraged in emerging markets like India.

Tags: Tech Talk

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