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Windows And Commercial Apps Aren't Going Away

Open-source software has become popular with small and midsize businesses as a way to cut costs and increase the flexibility of their IT environments.
Open-source software has become popular with small and midsize businesses as a way to cut costs and increase the flexibility of their IT environments. But no one will deny that Windows is still a dominating force on the desktop, and will be for some time, or that proprietary applications will continue to be preferred by less-technical users.

Linux has yet to achieve the same level of prominence on the desktop, which is why Linden Lab developed the user interface for its Second Life massive multiplayer online game using Windows Visual Studio and .Net to run on Windows-based PCs and Macs. "It's the best-integrated development environment on the PC," says Cory Ondrejka, Linden Lab's VP of product development. "For building and debugging Windows apps, Visual Studio is still the crème de la crème."

Linden Lab plans to develop a Linux client by the end of the year, but this wasn't a priority since the open-source operating system isn't as well developed from a graphics standpoint and most users don't have Linux desktops. "We were influenced by the realities of market share," Ondrejka says.

Blog aggregator and search site Feedster Inc., which counts on an open-source MySQL database, phpAdsNew, and three different distributions of Linux to run its business, also had to turn to proprietary applications for its less-technical users. Feedster runs Windows desktops and uses Salesforce.com-hosted software for automating sales-lead tracking. Feedster's sales staff, "the people who use it, don't care if it's open source or not," says Scott Johnson, Feedster's co-founder and chief technology officer.

For users who prize usability over cost and the risk of vendor lock-in, open source is a tough sell. "An HR system has to have a certain amount of polish because the users aren't highly technical," Johnson says. In the all-important desktop market, open source faces its biggest challenge, both in displacing Windows and challenging popular applications. "Will open source thrive in areas on the desktop like Adobe? That's the open question," he adds.

One thing's for certain, open-source alternatives will continue to find their way to the market. From there, adoption will be determined by necessity and the spirit of competition.

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