Why do desktop users seem to be discovering Linux only now? The reason has less to do with the Linux OS, which has become increasingly common on servers in the past decade, than with the availability of quality applications to run on top of it. After years of hard, collective labor, developers recently passed a series of important milestones, or “inch markers,” as they are called by Jon Hall, president of Linux International, the budding movement’s trade organization.
First was the advancement in early 2001 of point-and-click, Windows-like interfaces, the most prominent of which is known as Gnome. (Before that, desktop Linux looked more like the old Microsoft DOS.)
Second was the completion of applications like Ximian Evolution — for e-mail, contacts, and group calendars — that were built on top of Gnome.
Third was OpenOffice.org, the open-source cousin of Sun’s StarOffice. The 1.0 version, released in April, is surprisingly compatible with the applications in Microsoft Office. (If someone sends you a Word document, you can read it in OpenOffice.)
And most recent was the June release of Mozilla 1.0, the first competitive open-source Web browser for the desktop. Most users agree that these applications don’t quite measure up to their Microsoft counterparts (see chart). But for the money, they are good enough to form the makings of a Windows alternative.
I agree. For the past few months, our desktops have been running Evolution, Mozilla, OpenOffice and GAIM on a Linux Thin Client.
As the article says in the end: “The way to make Linux a true competitor to Microsoft is to make it work seamlessly with Microsoft products.” This is very important. Rather than innovating initially, we need to just make sure it looks, feels and works just like MS-Windows.