Linux is finally ready for desktop… really?

I had a chance to work for a while with the latest Linux distributions from Novell/SuSE (SLED 10) and from Ubuntu (Dapper Drake). And frankly speaking, they are cool. It seems that these distributions are now so good, that they could be rolled to end users and finally start “the battle for the desktop”. And some of the organizations already did start – Munich, Vienna, Ceska Posta and many others.
But is the quality of the desktop operating system the most important factor for the domination in this field? I say no. There are more important reasons and all of them start with money.
It is almost a natural law that there is no change without a reason. And thus there will be no migration to Linux desktop without a sound reason. And the reason/benefits must be bigger than the hassle associated with the change. It’s simple economics – cost vs. benefit.
A successful enterprise needs good conditions to run its business. It needs finance, adequate human resources and stable environment and many others.
This must be in the minds of desktop OS providers

  • The cost – cheaper is always better. Since the MS Windows is installed on almost every desktop, it is enough to keep license cost low enough to stop the IT management think about migration to Linux. That’s why CIO likes to start Linux projects. It improves their negotiation position to Microsoft.
    It is very rare to find organization that can switch to Linux easily. The reason is usually cost of such a change – re-building legacy applications, migration of emails, replacing of unsupported hardware, training or hiring Linux specialists.
  • Stablity and sound support – it is important to have a partner that helps in case of troubles. A partner that guarantees support of the desktop system. Linux made a huge step on this field. Companies like Red Hat, Canonical/Ubuntu, Novell are not just a group of fanatics. Linux is not a toy any more. It would be naive to think it is perfect. No, it is not. Microsoft is a step ahead and no Linux distributor is currently able to support its software as good as Microsoft. One distribution detects my display, another my PCMCI card. But none detects all at once. And looking for the driver is just additional hassle.
  • Human resources – I can hardly imagine that roll out of Linux will have no impact to the human resources of the enterprise. It will have a major impact. The organization could invest into education, but we are again back to the root of the problem. Why should the organizations do it?
    The impulse should come from the vendors of Linux distributions. They should not focus only on geeks and management. They should start to educate the new users on schools. Few years ago it would have been enough to educate students on universities. Now the computer literacy is a must and starts very early. The Linux distributors should help schools in teaching Linux as OS of choice.

I believe, the third point is the key to success. Microsoft knows it and that’s why it invests into schools.
The Linux vendors should massively support schools of all levels. They should not only provide licenses, but also support and know-how to keep the chances against Microsoft equal.