A quick comment on the point about Indian computer comapnies starting to sell Linux desktops: the reason is not love for Linux but more to stay competitive against local brands (like Zenith) and assemblers (white box sellers). Windows on the desktop get pirated anyways by most users, so companies like Compaq are ending up being more expensive (and uncompetitive) if they bundle Windows XP. Their solution: rather than just selling a PC without an OS, they are giving a lower-priced PC option with Linux, letting end users decide what they want to do. At this point, my guess is that most users just get a pirated copy of Windows and replace the bundled Linux, saving Rs 5-6,000 (USD 100-120) in the process. Everyone wins, except Microsoft!
I expect the trend towards Linux being bundled on desktops sold in emerging markets to increase quite dramatically. Hopefully, this will also make many users aware of what Linux can do and popularise it among new users. At least, they have to now through an extra step to get Windows, rather than getting it on a platter!
Have believed for some time that the route for Linux on the desktop in emerging markets (the “next users”) is via the server in networked environments: use low-cost / low-configuration desktops which cost USD 100-150, and have the performance of the newest and fastest PC because all the processing and storage is being done on the server. Also makes management of these thin clients easier. We have to look for markets where affordability is more important – and in emerging markets, the cost of hardware (a new PC still costs USD 500-600) is a bigger barrier than the cost of software (which for most users is still 0). A thin client-thick server solution can bring down the cost of desktop hardware by atleast 50-70%, even counting an increase in the server cost. This is where Linux (in its terminal-server avatar) can start making the biggest difference.