Your next desktop operating system is taking shape now; your decision regarding which OS to adopt may be your key technology choice for the year.
This is not a step back in time nor a failure to see service-oriented architectures, high-function handhelds or even voice-based applications as contenders to win “most important technology” designations.
However, for most business technology users, desktops and laptop computers remain the predominant mechanisms for interacting with a companys business applications.
The next version of Microsofts Longhorn desktop offering, when it is introduced next year, will have open-source competitors finally bringing competition back to this segment.
Last week at Novells BrainShare conference, the Novell execs outlined Novell Linux Desktop 10, touting that operating systems Beagle search technology.
The Beagle search system is designed to index and search hard drive files, Web sites, instant message archives and any other location to which a user might digitally wander.
Add in 3-D desktop interfaces and fast rendering engines, and you end up—those execs claim—with a Macintosh-like experience on a Linux box.
The week before BrainShare, I had a chance to meet with Michael Robertson, founder and CEO of Linspire.
Robertson was in New York to talk about Release 5.0 of the Linspire operating system, as well as to meet with Manhattan music moguls in one of his other roles, as president of MP3tunes.
Robertson, a vocal and articulate advocate of Linux and open-source software, is a constant thorn in Microsofts side.
Ask Robertson why Linspire 5.0 should do for Linux what Windows 3.1 did for that platform, and hell tick off a bunch of reasons.
To go where Microsoft
A new graphical theme, music and photo managers, upgraded click-and-run program download technology, built-in virtual private networking, and a built-in wallet for storing encrypted passwords are on Robertsons list.
“The key to competing with Microsoft is to go where they cant go,” Robertson explained over a burger at a W hotel in Manhattan.
In the desktop arena, Linspire has the advantage of not being burdened, as Microsoft is, by requirements to be compatible with old applications.
Robertson claims that at least one major PC manufacturer in the United States will adopt Linux on the desktop before years end.
He also claims two major customers in the telecom industry will deploy Linux on the desktop, but he wouldnt name them for fear that Microsoft would try to scoop them away.
If the history of Windows is any indication of the future, then the biggest competitor to Longhorn will be Microsoft customers who dont want to upgrade from existing operating systems.
Faced with a group of corporate customers who are unwilling to upgrade, Microsoft can force the issue by ending support; however, this time around, Microsoft would run the risk that customers would consider non-Windows alternatives.
And while 3-D interfaces and new graphic-rendering capabilities, as are in Longhorn, are compelling, those features wont be sufficient to sway corporate customers.
Corporate customers will make their next desktop operating system decision based on three factors, each beginning with the letter S.
The first deciding factor will be security.
The current state of patches, spyware and virus attacks will not be tolerated in the next operating system upgrade cycle, period.
The second factor will be search.
Corporate productivity begins with being able to easily find information. The faster and more precisely the information can be retrieved, the better a job can be done.
The expectations for corporate search are quickly rising.
The third factor is simplicity.
The days of maintaining many operating systems and applications are coming to a close in the face of robust browsers, corporate application integration and limited resources.
Corporate customers wont necessarily be choosing either corporate Windows or corporate Linux on the desktop.
Instead, theyll be choosing which desktop operating system best fulfills the three Ss of corporate computing.
Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at email@example.com.