Linux desktops, which seemed to hold some promise a few years ago, have failed to capture the hearts or pocketbooks of corporations, a market research firm said Wednesday.
Based on a survey of corporate buyers in the fourth quarter of 2004, just over 1 percent were running Linux desktops and open-source office products in their companies, Gartner Inc. said. The survey was taken at Gartner conferences in Florida and France.
In a separate study, Gartner estimates that only 3.2 percent of non-consumer computer users will run Linux and open-source office products by 2008.
"If you had asked me three years ago what the numbers would be, I would have thought they'd be much higher by now," Gartner analyst Michael Silver said.
The opportunity for broad adoption of Linux desktops opened in 2001 when Microsoft Corp. introduced new licensing for Windows and its Office productivity suite that angered many corporate customers, Silver said. At the same time, many companies were still using Office 97, which means it was an opportune time to move from Windows to Linux.
That scenario, however, never happened because companies found they couldn't run all their desktop software on Linux, and the open-source office products couldn't meet the needs of all workers. As a result, companies would have had to manage and maintain both Windows and Linux desktops, which would have been too expensive.
"Organizations decided they wanted to stay on a single platform for everyone," Silver said.
Through 2008, Gartner expects Linux desktops to remain a rarity in corporations.
"The huge number of applications most enterprise have makes Linux to expensive for most of them to consider," Silver said. "You'll see pockets of Linux, but I don't believe you'll see widespread adoption."
Those pockets include the Asia/Pacific region, where the news is both good and bad for Microsoft.
In 2004, Gartner found that 8.2 percent of computers shipping in the Pacific/Asia region, which includes China, contained Linux. In 2005, however, that number has been cut in half, with about an equal amount of machines shipping with only DOS, the underlying control program for Windows. DOS also can be used under Linux.
Gartner expects many of these DOS machines to eventually run illegal versions of Windows.
"The majority will end up running pirated versions of Windows," Silver said.
Governments looking to support their local software industry are expected to increasingly use Linux, Gartner said. Because the operating system is open source, local companies find it easier to write applications for it and to provide installation and maintenance services.