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Corporate Linux Desktop Barriers To Fall?

My guys are big advocates of Linux, says Martin High, director of IT at Valeo Behavioral Healthcare in Topeka, Kan. "We're taking a hard look at it on the desktop." Wait. On the desktop? For a business?
"My guys are big advocates of Linux," says Martin High, director of IT at Valeo Behavioral Healthcare in Topeka, Kan. "We're taking a hard look at it on the desktop." Wait. On the desktop? For a business?That's right. And from a look at things, it shouldn't be as surprising as it might seem, for a number of reasons. Dell's been big on the Linux hunt recently, first announcing it would sell consumer PCs with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed, then expanding its affair with Linux servers (it's already a Red Hat customer) to include Novell's SUSE Enterprise Linux Server. Novell and Microsoft, as you might recall, recently entered into a relationship that will ostensibly allow Windows and Linux to work better together.

Is Dell up to something else? Dell hasn't said much, but Michael Dell's personal Precision M90 workstation at home runs Ubuntu Linux. Valeo's High wouldn't say, other than to mention that after several discussions with the computer vendor, he was under several NDA's from Dell and that Valeo is testing Ubuntu.

The question is whether Linux is really ready for corporate desktop use. InformationWeek recently carried a comparison of Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux for the desktop, and found that Ubuntu was up to common daily tasks, while Vista is still more complete as a desktop operating system. Generally, when I've asked corporate IT managers about their thoughts on Linux desktops, the first response is that hardware support and software compatibility is still too spotty for Linux to take off beyond a few computers within the IT department. Meanwhile, while most people have experience and therefore some level of comfort with using Windows, even Linux users (and Linux fans) I've spoken to have their complaints about how much work it takes to be a Linux user.

That said, a survey found that only about 33% of Linux users recently surveyed say they have computer-related jobs, and 36% said they used their Linux desktops either exclusively for work or for both business and pleasure. There's also the reputation for security and stability Linux seems to have carved out more so than Microsoft. So there are clear cases for using Linux at work. Still, as noted, the question remains if desktop Linux will ever truly be ready for corporate roll-outs, or if it'll remain rare because of integration and management challenges.