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.
There are some adoption theories around Linux, Kapor said, who added that he does not believe desktop Linux will be adopted as a “killer application. Like the server, its adoption will start at the edge and move inward towards the center,” he said.
The next wave of Linux desktop users will be transactional workers who use computers to perform well-defined tasks, like in a call center, where some 2 million people work, “even though none of them seem to be around when I get on the phone,” Kapor quipped.
IT managers in the call centers are increasingly looking at replacing their desktops with Linux and, beginning next year, the industry will see some significant numbers from that and other vertical segments, he said.
On the consumer and worker productivity side, large-scale adoption is unlikely before 2007, Kapor said, particularly as the breadth of applications available on Linux today is lacking. And the OpenOffice productivity suite does not have the polish of Microsoft Office.
“Im not going to tell you that Linux is going to take over the desktop world, but it will significantly grow its share,” Kapor said. “Because of the momentum around Linux, we will see price cuts by Microsoft. It would not surprise me to see 10 percent of global desktops running Linux in the near future. The rest of the world is leading the U.S. in terms of Linux, and I expect that to continue. Foreign governments are also embracing Linux more so than here.”
Kapor also announced the Opensector.org Web site, launched today, where announcements of Linux deployments and research will be published and posted.
“Im excited because this is a huge improvement from where we were. Desktop Linux is already a solution for millions of people around the world and will be a solution for tens of millions of people going forward,” he concluded.