People have been declaring the Year of Desktop Linux for years. Linus Torvalds himself declared the Year of the Linux Desktop
way back in 2004, a prediction that now appears to have been a bit optimistic. Now, Forrester is predicting that 2008 will be the year
that Linux becomes a "credible threat" to Windows. Color me skeptical. The suite of Linux desktop software—especially the excellent Open Office—has definitely improved over the years, with Ubuntu
getting a lot of buzz over the last couple of years for putting out a polished and user-friendly product. But desktop users, and corporate desktop users in particular, tend to be very conservative. They want software they trust, and that they know will be compatible with other peoples' software. Unless Linux-based products offer compelling features that the Windows alternatives don't, it's just not going to be worth the risk of abandoning trusted software. Moreover, a lot of companies have a suite of specialized business software that was built around Windows that would be very costly to convert to another platform. Eventually, the cost savings may be compelling enough to get a significant number of companies to switch. Windows and Office are expensive, but switching your whole company to software that has unanticipated flaws is a lot more expensive. So the process of evaluating, testing, and transitioning to a new operating system is likely to take a decade, not a year. So I doubt that a significant number of companies will be providing Linux desktops to their (non-geek) employees by the end of 2008.
Tim Lee is an expert at the Techdirt Insight Community. To get insight and analysis from Tim Lee and other experts on challenges your company faces, click here.
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