How Serious Is AT&T About the Linux Desktop?

AT&T is studying Linux on the desktop as a possible replacment for its 70,000 Windows desktops, but analysts aren't sure that AT&T is all that serious about making the switch.

According to AT&T CIO Hossein Eslambolchi, the telecommunications giant is considering Linux or the Mac to replace its Windows desktops. Or is it?

Is AT&T, as one report had it, looking to "throw Windows out?" No, not according to AT&T spokesman Michael Dickman.

"The bottom line is that Eslambolchi has set up a team to evaluate multiple desktop platforms," Dickman said. "Yes, today, Windows has security problems, but Eslambolchi is looking for desktops two to three years down the road, and if Linux becomes popular and hackers pay attention to it, whos to say the Linux desktop wont have its own security problems?"

AT&T is not so much "looking beyond Windows, but looking at all the options," Dickman said, adding that todays CIOs have many more choices available.

"Its just like in telecom where there used to only be AT&T, but then in the 80s MCI and Sprint gave enterprises more choices," he said. "Eslambolchi is looking at all the options including Linux, Apple and Windows."

But how serious is AT&T about looking at "all the options?" And how serious should it, or any other enterprise, be?

/zimages/2/28571.gifMicrosoft sees the open-source threat looming ever larger. Read about it here.

Bill Claybrook, president of New River Marketing Research, said he still has doubts about Linux as a Windows desktop replacement.

"My feeling is that if enterprises are going to switch from Windows to Linux, now is a good time to start thinking about it," Claybrook said.

"However, Linux desktop vendors still do not have enough software that enterprises use to warrant most firms switching to Linux, except in certain areas of a company where only e-mail is required, or only word processing is required, etc.," he said.

Dan Kusnetzky, vice president for system software research at IDC, agreed. "Linux is still a very minor player on the desktop. One of the places it would play very well is a platform for Web-based applications or as a platform to access the Web or e-mail."

Of course, "Linux desktops are less expensive, but so much of the software that enterprises use is tied to Windows," Claybrook said. "One customer told me that they had several thousand applications built around IE. They are not likely to switch."

Next Page: Pilot Tests May Bring Microsoft to the Table