Gartner Weighs In on Linuxs Desktop Prospects

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-05-17 Print this article Print

The analyst outlines impediments faced by open-source competitors to Microsoft but says it's a good time for business and enterprise customers to look into Linux on the desktop.

Microsoft does not appear in any imminent danger of losing much market share on the desktop productivity front to any Linux or open-source competitors. In a presentation at this weeks Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here in San Francisco titled "Client OS and Office – Charting a Course to Longhorn (or Linux)," Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst, said that just because Linux is free does not mean it is cheap.
Among the impediments to using open-source office software products among businesses are compatibility and fidelity issues.
"You just cant move all of your users to StarOffice/ You will have to keep some Microsoft Office. You will have to look at big swaths/large departments and groups of people relatively isolated from others and who pretty much only send documents between themselves as potential users," Silver said. Asked whether the Macintosh might be a better choice than Linux on the desktop at the moment, Silver said it could be, as there is Office for the Mac and it has a better, more intuitive user interface. Click here to read more about Microsofts Office suite for Mac. But Silver said this is also a good time for business and enterprise customers to take a close look at Linux and StarOffice/ on the desktop "as we now have a better idea of whats coming in Longhorn [the next version of Windows] and how compelling that will be." To read more about Longhorn, click here. "Longhorn will include a single worldwide binary that can be used to reduce the number of images companies have to deploy across the world," he said. Longhorn would also see the concept of LUA (Least User Access), where users were no longer given administrative rights and applications did not break as a result of those lesser rights. Longhorn would also bring better search, better ways of categorizing and searching documents, Silver said. Linux on the desktop for mainstream business users has also "passed the peak of hype" and real deployments are starting, so "well now see what some of the holes actually are," he said. But Silver also cautioned the audience not to believe all they hear about Linux on the desktop, listing what he sees as the 10 myths around this. These are that:
  • Linux is be less expensive than Windows because StarOffice/ can be used instead of Microsoft Office
  • Linux is free
  • There are no forced upgrades. ("We expect there to be as little support for older versions of Linux as for older Windows," he said.)
  • Linux requires significantly less labor to manage
  • Linux has a lower TCO than Windows because of the available management tools
  • Applications are inexpensive or free
  • Skills are transferable
  • The hardware can be kept longer if Linux is used, or older hardware can be used;
  • Linux should be deployed as soon as a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement expires, and
  • Linux on the desktop is an all-or-nothing equation. Next Page: Microsoft Office.

    Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

    He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

    He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

    He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

    He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

    He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

    His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

    For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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