May 15, 2000
Linux Faces Uphill Battle For The Desktop
Retraining and lack of compatible apps limit adoption of operating system
By Charles Waltner
Send Us Your Feedback
Whittle says training issues are one of the biggest concerns the Dayton, Ohio, company has about moving Linux to the desktop. To switch, Dayton-Phoenix would have to retrain its employees on a whole new set of applications. And the employees would likely resist the change all the way.
"There's a perception from end users that Microsoft Office is the best out there, so it would be an uphill battle to convert," Whittle says. "If there were a native Microsoft Office version, that would be a different matter."
That's more or less the bottom line when IT managers consider using Linux on the desktop: There's just not enough application support for the upstart operating system.
Also, graphical user interfaces for Linux, while vastly improved over the last year, could still do with some polishing, experts say.
There has been noteworthy growth in support for desktop Linux applications during the last six months, mostly for personal productivity application suites, more or less analogous to Microsoft Office's group of word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and other applications.
There are also hundreds of shareware and open-source Linux programs on the market, but they come with little, if any, documentation, and no support. The price is right, however--many are free and almost all are low cost. But there's no doubt that Linux still has a way to go before it will be a big seller for business desktops.
Mark Bolzern, president of LinuxMall.com Inc., one of the largest resellers of Linux products, estimates that it will take six to 18 months before Linux "hits its stride on the desktop." His advice for IT managers is to "keep checking back in" on Linux's advancements.
There are applications and desktop environments available for Linux that work well out of the box but require some custom configuration. "Linux as just gotten to the point where these programs exist," Bolzern says. "The final tweaks are not there yet." While customization issues could prove daunting to home users, Bolzern says, most IT managers can make any configuration changes necessary.
There are some incentives for moving Linux to the desktop. First, the price is attractive. IT managers can acquire the open-source operating system for little or no cost. Also, IT departments can modify or customize the open-source code of Linux to meet their users' needs.
Perhaps most significantly, IT managers are seeing clear value in Linux's performance and stability. As with Linux servers, companies could realize substantial productivity gains, since Linux systems rarely crash, says Kerry Harman, desktop integration manager for TeamLinux.
But all those incentives don't overcome the basic problem: There aren't that many Linux desktop applications available yet.
"I believe in Linux, but I don't believe in Linux on the desktop," says Richard Yoo, chief technology officer for RackSpace.com, a San Antonio Web-hosting service.
Yoo says most business employees are indoctrinated with Microsoft Office and would be rather nonplussed to lose the applications with which they have become familiar--and more efficient.
If Microsoft were to port applications such as Office and Outlook to run natively on Linux, that might make a big difference in adoption rates. But other vendors of popular software also need to port their widely used applications.
Illustration by Roger Chouinard
- BYOD into the Cloud: The Next Phase of Enterprise Mobility -
- Big Data: Architecting Systems at Speed - E2 Conference Boston
- Secure your mobile applications in the new commerce era - Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- Get practical information on how to develop your organization's mobile commerce application - Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- Learn how to move your broadband service to an All-IP network at TelcoVision (formerly TelcoTV) - TelcoVision
This Week's Issue
Current Healthcare Issue
Current Education Issue
- Business Value of Compilers
- IBM Analytic Answers for Retail Purchase Analysis and Offer Targeting
- Government Analytics: Set Goals, Drive Accountability and Improve Outcomes
- A Smarter Approach: Inside IBM Business Analytics Solutions for Mid-Size Businesses
- Business Analytics for Midsize Businesses: Challenges and Benefits