Jim Curtin (CEO of NeTraverse) discusses the Linux Desktop and his company’s product (Win4Lin), which runs Windows on Linux. Some comments:
The desktop status quo has become increasingly expensive — not only the support and change-management model, but the increasing frequency of upgrades that require new hardware, applications and training. The desktop model has been begging for a disruptive technology to come along and displace it.
There are three approaches to running Windows in Linux; emulation, integration and virtualization, or in other words; WINE, Win4Lin and VMware, respectively. Win4Lin offers the best of all worlds in that it gives pure compatibility, broad application coverage and no loss of performance. It also accomplishes this with a minimal resource footprint.
As for [the future of] desktops, in five years we should be well on the way to more prevalent use of thinner devices with user “state” hosted in the network. The majority of desktops, to the extent they exist, will not be stateful. People, especially home users, will have personal servers (either hosted at home or at a third party hoster) that broadcast apps and data to a range of personal devices, but these devices should be more about ergonomic elegance than operating systems. Corporate users will have stations that are big on display and light on local disk access.
An alternate idea to Win4Lin is “Lin-on-Win”. What I have been thinking is that the world is full of Windows desktops (either legally purchases software or pirated). Trying to get people to switch completely to Linux – atleast in the case of existing users – is quite disruptive, and is naturally opposed by users.
Instead, think of a solution where the Linux desktop becomes an application on the Windows desktop (through vnc or other alternatives). Wean the user away slowly with some applications. For example, start by promising virus-free email on the Linux desktop – this will mean moving mail and files to a Linux server. Next setp, get OpenOffice on the Linux desktop.
This way, the users still have Windows as their primary desktop, but key applications (mail, files, office suite) are moved on to Linux. Once they get more comfortable with the Linux environment, Windows can be replaced completely and the users won’t notice as much (as long as the Windows apps they need can be supported or migrated).