Linux Making Headway in Desktop Space

It's not a killer desktop app, says OSAF's Mitch Kapor, but Linux is making a steady march toward the desktop while putting pressure on Microsoft.

PORTLAND, Ore.—Linux is not going to take over the desktop space anytime soon, but is making significant headway in vertical markets, Mitch Kapor, the chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF) and founder of Lotus Development Corp., said here on Thursday.

"It has been a long march to the Linux desktop, and I am convinced that Linux will wind up with a greater share of the desktop market over time," he said in his OReilly Open Source Convention (Oscon) keynote address, titled "Open Source on the Mainstream Desktop."

Kapor said his first encounter with free software was in 1985, when he was still at Lotus. "I met Richard Stallman [the founder of the free software movement], who was picketing the company for our look and feel lawsuits. I thought at that time that free software was one of those hopelessly idealistic ideas," he said. But the industry and Kapors views have changed.

Linux is now so successful on the server that it has begun to attract "parasites who had no business model except litigation," he said, referring to The SCO Groups lawsuit against IBM, to loud applause from the audience.

Linux and open-source software are putting pressure on Microsoft Corp., its prices and licensing terms. As hardware prices continue to fall, Microsofts software prices remain high in comparison, Kapor said.

There is also growing resistance in the enterprise to forced upgrades and resentment to onerous licensing conditions, all of which are contributing to the growing awareness of alternatives, he said.

"The climate is more conducive now to an alternative, and there are a lot of Linux success stories around the desktop, underscored by recent moves like the city of Munichs shift to Linux desktops," he said.

"Microsoft can and will cut its prices to stop Linux desktop deployments. But simply having a government-mandated program for Linux on the desktop doesnt always work because if the users dont like it, they will replace it with a bootleg copy of other software," he said.