Linux on the Desktop

Interest in Linux on the desktop continues to grow. OSAF has published a report. An extract from its executive summary:

This report..concludes that, while much work remains to be done, desktop Linux is now good enough for significant classes of users. We believe that claims about Linux fitness or unfitness for desktop use have both been overblown. It is true that Linux is unlikely to achieve significant adoption by knowledge workers and mainstream consumers, especially in the United States, over the next few years. It is also true that Linux is already in use by millions of users around the world, and is likely to find a home on tens of millions of desktops over the next few years, outpacing the Macintosh OS as the number two desktop operating system.

We believe that initial deployments of Linux on the desktop will focus largely on highly technical workers, students and transactional workers. The public sector, especially outside of the US, will also be a major driver of desktop Linux adoption.

While technical challenges remain, we agree with several of the people we spoke with who argued that desktop Linux has evolved from being a technical challenge to a marketing challenge. Linux is now good enough for large numbers of people. A key remaining task is to convince buyers to consider a Linux desktop on its merits.

ZDNet reports on a keynote address at OSCON 2003 by OSAF’s founder, Mitch Kapor on the same topic.

Kapor said he would not be surprised to see 10 percent of global desktops running Linux in the near future. That’s a good bet.

He cautioned that gaining desktop Linux users beyond the techie crowd would require much improved Microsoft Office compatibility as well as fit and finish in the desktop environments and applications. OpenOffice, for example, still lacks the polish necessary to convert the mass of Office users, despite the cost advantages.

Kapor also said that the hardware abstraction layer and integration among various open source desktop environments should get the attention of the developer community. Installing Linux on a laptop can be a nightmare, and device driver support remains inadequate.

An OSAF presentation on Chandler, an open-source personal information manager, which could be a key application as part of the Linux desktop, is available here.


Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.