Lack of interoperability with Windows software holds back desktop deployment

Johanna Ambrosio, Tech Journalist

February 3, 2006

2 Min Read

Of those using Linux on PCs, only 45% say they are "highly satisfied," while 48% are "somewhat satisfied" and 7% "not very satisfied." That contrasts with the 80% who say they're highly satisfied running Linux on servers.

Still, many of those surveyed say there's enough perceived value in Linux to make it worthwhile to consider making the switch. When asked what drove the decision to use Linux on the desktop, 73% of those doing so cite the relatively low cost or lack of a licensing fee. Bad news for Microsoft: 64% say they need an alternative to Windows and 61% point to Windows security issues as the driver.

Despite recent reports warning of increasing security vulnerabilities in Linux (see story, p. 49), only 10% of those surveyed mention security as an obstacle to using Linux on PCs.

The Real Cost
Are the 73% who cite lower costs as a major reason for adopting Linux for PCs getting their money's worth? Fifty-eight percent say the total cost of ownership of their Linux PCs is lower than for PCs running Windows XP, while 15% say Linux is more costly and 27% say it's the same.

The much-vaunted return-on-investment benefits of Linux need to be scrutinized closely if, say, an IT shop heavily invested in Microsoft software wants to adopt Linux in a big way on the desktop. "People have an impression that Linux will reduce overall costs," says Dan Kusnetzky, an IDC analyst. "I don't think that's realistic unless you're very specific."

While buying open-source software is less expensive, the cost of support contracts must be factored in. And the most expensive item of all: personnel who know how to implement, debug, and fix Linux-related products. For a Unix shop, Linux isn't that big a stretch. But going from Windows to Linux requires some investment in personnel.

A rule of thumb is that staff makes up around 60% of the cost of ownership of any given IT system, with hardware and software less than 30%, Kusnetzky says. "If Linux is foreign territory, your cost of ownership might be higher in the short term," he says. Those costs will likely smooth out over several years as experience improves, he says.

The survey also found that lawsuits filed by SCO Group against AutoZone, DaimlerChrysler, and IBM, charging unauthorized use of Unix code within Linux, aren't having a major impact on businesses' decisions to adopt open-source software. Two-thirds say the suits have had no effect on their decision, while only 9% say they have limited or postponed deployment or won't move to open-source software because of the suits. And 24% say it's too soon to tell.

Whatever the risks, customers such as E-Trade's Framke say they wouldn't think of going back to the proprietary environment they switched from. "It's been great for us, very enabling," he says. "Linux is agnostic; it gives us choice, and that helps competition."

About the Author(s)

Johanna Ambrosio

Tech Journalist

Johanna Ambrosio is an award-winning freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She has been a reporter and an editor in the computer industry for over 25 years, covering virtually every technology topic, starting with 'office automation' in the 1980s, as well as management issues including ROI and how to attract and retain talent. Her work has appeared online and in print, in publications including Application Development Trends, Government Computer News, Crain's New York Business, Investor's Business Daily, InformationWEEK, and the Metrowest Daily News. She formerly worked at Computerworld, for which she held various positions, including online director. She holds a B.S. in technical writing from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y., now the Tandon School of Engineering of New York University. She lives with her husband in a Boston suburb. Johanna's samples of her work are at https://www.clippings.me/jambrosio.

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