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9/26/2007
05:14 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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In Debate Over Desktop Linux, It All Comes Down To Money

My article 7 Reasons Why Linux Won't Succeed On The Desktop jump-started anew the debate over why the open-source operating system hasn't made significant inroads on the client side into Windows' user base. The real reason, it seems, is something much more basic than confusion about Linux distros, annoying fanboys turning off potential adoptees, or

My article 7 Reasons Why Linux Won't Succeed On The Desktop jump-started anew the debate over why the open-source operating system hasn't made significant inroads on the client side into Windows' user base. The real reason, it seems, is something much more basic than confusion about Linux distros, annoying fanboys turning off potential adoptees, or resistance from average users.What it all boils down to is the almighty dollar. Linux is deceptive in coming across as a free option. Yes, the OS itself can be obtaining for no cost, or, if you buy a commercial version, for a pittance as compared to Windows. (Please, spare me that fanboy line about how open-source software is free as in freedom, not as in beer." I don't know what the heck that means.)

The real cost of Linux starts after you install the executable. That's the investment you have to spend in user training, and the support contract you have to purchase.

Don't think I'm spouting Microsoft propaganda here. I don't buy the line Microsoft was peddling for several years, that Windows offers a better return on investment than Linux.

What I do believe is that Windows is so embedded in most installations that converting to Linux can be prohibitively expense. That doesn't even account for senior executives who'd have to put their heads on the chopping block for some future benefit which might accrue to their organization as a whole, but likely not the them.

But don't take my word for it. Here in their own words are what some of the readers of my desktop Linux piece said:

From Tony R:

The responses in this forum are a clear indicator of why Linux fails to gain market share. We hear every technical reason why Linux is better than Windows, most of them valid. We hear that Linux is free--nothing is free. There is virtually zero support unless you "buy" a support contract (there goes the free price tag) and no implementation assistance unless you pay for it (did you say free?). At best Linux is a discount over Windows, nothing more.

From Rich Wood:

"I work for a relatively small company but we have a large base of in-house software written in C# and we use Excel extensively. The cost of migrating our in-house desktop applications to Linux would be enormous relative to any benefit we would receive. OpenOffice might be ok for basic spreadsheets, but our Excel applications use a lot of functionality that is not available in OpenOffice, including RTD, VBA macros and automation by external applications."

From Mencken:

"The cost to license Windows is trivial compared to the cost of supporting users and systems. Companies run on Excel macros and VBA. Even if there was 100% compatibility in Linux, we'd need to retrain 100K people. Might happen in a small shop, won't happen here anytime soon."

From Jim Johnson:

"For Linux to make it, get rid of the idea that Linux is free. Sure, there is no charge to acquire or (perhaps) install it; but it is not 'free'. Be honest about expected costs--either in-house training or out-sourced support."

On the other side of the argument, here's a word from "Roadwarrior," who believes the Linux wind has begun to blow:

"Drastically shrinking budgets are forcing IT departments to rethink their strategies. Large scale deployments of Linux desktops are starting to occur in Education and Health Care. The cracks are in the dam for Microsoft. Large numbers of customers are returning dollars to their budgets by deploying Open Office as a replacement for Microsoft Office. .. Price always drives the market place! The ability of open source to shift already committed IT budget dollars to new budget line items is the driving force behind the revolution. Free is compelling."

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