July 09, 2003
Linux on the Desktop

My Open Source Conference keynote is titled "Linux' Journey to the Mainstream Desktop" and is being delivered on Thursday, July 10, at 9:30 A.M. in Portland. OR.

A PDF of the talk will be available, as will the complete text of the underlying report "Desktop Linux Technology and Market Overview", prepared by Bart Decrem. Get it here.

Here's an excerpt from the Foreword by me, which explains what it's about.

For several years now, many people involved with computing and the Internet have harbored hopes that Linux might become a viable end-user operating system for a broad population. There has been great frustration with problems and limitations of commercial offerings, especially to the extent that the original goals of computers as tools of empowerment for individuals seem to have lost momentum. In turn this frustration has fueled the wish for an alternative which could evolve through the inclusive and open-ended dynamics of open source development.

At the same time, it is an undeniable truth that while Linux-based server software has matured to become an integral and vital component of the global information infrastructure, as yet Linux on the desktop has remained on the periphery. Recently, I initiated a project on behalf of OSAF to take a careful look at the state of Linux on the desktop, and asked Bart Decrem to spearhead a short-term research project to assess the current situation and trends.

As you can read, while we do not believe a revolution is in the offing, there is a great deal of good news about what has already been accomplished, and even more about what is very likely going to be happening with adoption of desktop Linux, especially considering the situation outside the U.S. A further piece of good news is that, by and large, there do not appear to be intractable obstacles to the continuing growth of adoption of Linux as an end-user OS.

I encourage your feedback, which may be sent to desktop-linux-report@osafoundation.org.

Posted by mitch@osafoundation.org at July 09, 2003 06:54 AM
Comments

Having read the "Desktop Linux Technology and Market Overview" I am left with the same feeling that I get watching a movie without a very satisfying ending - something is missing. The Overview is a nice compendium of facts but doesn't take them to the next logical step.

I've been doing business development and planning for quite a few years (started at Compaq in the early '90s). What makes something - in this case Linux on the Desktop - a success isn't stating the obvious but putting a plan to turn all those little frowns and smirks into nice little smiley faces.

Chuck Wegrzyn

Posted by: Chuck Wegrzyn at July 10, 2003 01:45 PM

Chuck,

I think it's more of an overview than a prediction of the future. I agree that it doesn't really delve into the HOW's. Nevertheless, it provides insight into the present state of affairs.

BTW, movies with open endings are cool... you are supposed to come up with the ending based on your interpretation and feelings. I guess that is what needs to be done in this case :)

Sivaram

Posted by: Sivaram Velauthapillai at July 10, 2003 06:08 PM

After reading the "Desktop Linux marches on" on Vnunet.com (http://nl2.vnunet.com/News/1142240), I am real curious...

Why are people willing to reduce the number of Windows desktops in favor of Linux ones? How can one really bring costs down running Linux on the desktops? I know of companies that are under large volume licensing contracts with Microsoft and their XP desktops (i.e. Windows XP, Office XP Pro, and Windows Client Access License) cost a little over US$ 300,00 for 3 years...

I'd love to know what I'm missing considering that Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS alone costs $299,00...

Posted by: Alex Gomes at July 12, 2003 04:26 PM

Alex,

I agree that very large companies don't have that great of an incentive to switch to Linux at this point. The way I see it, Linux is really attractive to small and medium businesses. These ones will definitely see cost savings.

As far as Red Hat workstation costing $299, don't forget that this is the whole package. Not only does it include an OS, but also an office suite, internet tools, image editors, and so on. You essentially get something similar to Microsoft Windows+Office+servers+miscellaneous tools (ftp programs, image editors, etc).

In the worst case, you can go with a "lower-end" version (like personal or power-user versions), especially from SuSE or Mandrake (who seem to have more versions). Large businesses may not use these but small and medium businesses will see no differences between an enterprise desktop and a power-user desktop version.

Sivaram Velauthapillai

Posted by: Sivaram Velauthapillai at July 14, 2003 08:12 PM

Customers ask a few times a year when our applications will be ported to Linux. Based on this I estimated that the current Linux share for knowledge workers was between 10 to 15%. After reading your excellent report I felt some disenchantment (you are probably right), since you estimate a 10% Linux penetration within 4 years (the current tech horizon, in where you may predict something).

The practical conclusions I extract from your report are:

[1] Keep developing for Windows with no fears. A while ago we researched our options for about multiplatform development for a new application, but after trying the current solutions and the estimated effort/gain ratio, we desisted. If I had read your report before our research I wouldn’t have even bother to pursue the multiplatform matter in the first place, saving many days of work.

[2] Open source projects are auto-condemned since their own nature makes them not appropriate for a wide array of people/customers. To change the nature of open source projects so they are consistent, generic, united and with a sort of “vision” behind is just achievable by using a well defined, enterprise like, hierarchical development process, which is just not the way volunteers and developers like to work (why spoil the fun by auto enslaving myself to a “free” management machine?).

[3] Because of 2, well founded open source projects are the only projects that will be successful.

Regards,
Pablo

Posted by: Pablo at July 14, 2003 10:00 PM

Linux for the masses might be nearer than some people think.

Check my LindowsOS 4.0 review...

http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=10639

I was surprised. And I think they have a winner with the "click and install" concept. I hope other linux distros follow their lead. For non-geeks, the biggest pain with linux is no longer installing the O/S but rather the complexity of installing new software, imho.

LindowsOS addresses that nicely.

It would just take one of the big PC makers announcing they´d be preloading lindowsOS to see the rest follow.

Well, just my $0.02

Posted by: Fernando Cassia at July 26, 2003 01:16 PM

Linux for the masses might be nearer than some people think.

Check my LindowsOS 4.0 review...

http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=10639

I was surprised. And I think they have a winner with the "click and install" concept. I hope other linux distros follow their lead. For non-geeks, the biggest pain with linux is no longer installing the O/S but rather the complexity of installing new software, imho.

LindowsOS addresses that nicely.

It would just take one of the big PC makers announcing they´d be preloading lindowsOS to see the rest follow.

Well, just my $0.02

Posted by: Fernando Cassia at July 26, 2003 01:21 PM

Fernando,

What's the benefit of running Windows apps on a Linux machine? I mean, how much money does one save by doing so? Wouldn't it be easier to run such apps on Windows?

Posted by: Alex Gomes at July 30, 2003 10:11 PM

Hello Sivaram,

Thanks much for your reply on 07/14/03.

I can see how "lower-end" Linux WS distros may save small-medium companies some money. However, since tipically OS licenses represent 5 - 8% of the (desktop) TCO, wouldn't I end up spending more money on the long run with training, application ports, etc?

Please, help me out as the more I read, the more confused I get!!! :( I mean, I just can't find ways to justify (in numbers, that is) a migration to Linux...

Posted by: Alex Gomes at July 30, 2003 10:19 PM

To Alex Gomez @ HOTMAIL:

Obviously you didn't read my review, or did you?.

Who told you LindowsOS 4.0 is a linux distro "to run windows apps under linux" ??. LindowsOS has a wide range of NATIVE linux apps, like StarOffice, available from the "Click-n-Run Warehouse" site, installable with just a click.

Next time please read the linked articles before jumping to conclusions...

Posted by: Fernando Cassia at August 19, 2003 06:34 PM