PCWorld is at war with itself over Linux on the Desktop...

So the story all starts with a very misguided reporter,  Tony Bradley,  failed to give Linux a chance to grow and change.  So much so that he declared it dead on the desktop.  He tried linux as his primary machine for 30 days.  Sounds like a good trial?  Well maybe it was but that was almost 2 years ago.  In the last two years for example Unity came from Shuttleworth's dreams to reality.  OpenOffice forked and LibreOffice has seen development explode. In general the world of Linux marches on and at an impressive pace.  Microsoft and Apple have been around for since the 1970's which makes them a little more than 30 years old.  As everyone will remember Linux just turned 20 last summer/fall.  So all things considered it's amazing how far it's come with no major financial backers.  You can read my own account of my life with Linux.  Oh yeah I am still using it as my main OS and using Windows 7 as little as possible.  I have found the latest versions of LibreOffice function nearly flawlessly and transparently with their Windows counterparts.  I digress though because this is supposed to be about the fact that even his fellow reporters at PCWorld don't agree.  This where things get interesting.

Katherine Noyes wrote a rebuttal that pretty much attacked Bradley for saying Linux only makes up 1% of the desktop market.  She goes on to rant amazingly for Linux on the desktop is not dead yet.  She makes some great points and finished by agreeing with us on the fact that while Tablets are here we certainly not seeing the end of the PC era as lots of people would like us to believe.

Bradley can’t seem to just let this die and write another even more insulting response.  He goes off again about how few people are using Linux on the desktop.  He is of course forgetting that Linux is only sold, the numbers he is using, on about 30-40 models of PC’s.  Most of those are from Linux Speciality builders not the mainstream builders.  This isn’t to say none of them are the big builders, except Apple of course, all have a few PC’s you can buy with Linux.  What he is missing is people like me and many friends of mine who are repurposing old PC’s as Linux machines.  I know of a few companies that are also doing this for Kiosks, Point of Sale/Service Machines, School terminal servers and Terminal emulators.  So while Linux may not be a contender yet they are moving in and picking off the low hanging fruit.  So like the improvements we have seen in the interface and easy of install the number of users is growing fast.

At this point I thought the story would be over.  Then the Mayor of Munich came out last week and gave an interview about how easy, fast and cheaply they have managed to switch over to their own custom version of Linux called LiMux.  Even with them spinning their own version, standing up a development environment, hiring staff to do all of this, they still will save 4 Million Euros in the switch.  Then an additional 2.8 Million Euros each year in lowered/eliminated license fees.  Then there is the fact that helpdesk calls complaining about the change dropped from 70 a month to just 46 as the number of PC’s running LiMux increased from 1,500 to 9500.  It’s stories like these that will make CEO’s and more likely CFO’s sit up and take notice.  This isn’t a small business, it’s not a simple environment, it’s a large cities entire infrastructure being converted to Linux.  What else comes close to a modern Enterprise.

So in conclusion, yes you should look to see if you could switch out some Windows machines with Linux.  The exercise and evaluation of whether it’s possible is relatively cheap, fast and low impact.  If you could save even 25% off your Windows related software fees wouldn’t it be worth it?

Brian Wagner

Brian started working with *nix in while a student at Kent State University in the early 90's. In 1995, as an E-Mail Administrator for Caliber Technology (now part of Fedex) he was tasked with administering Sendmail on both Slackware Linux and Solaris Systems. His first home install of Linux was MkLinux DR1 in 1996 on his 60 Mhz PowerMac. Since then Brian has been working and consulting on Linux and it's uses in the Enterprise to support everything from E-Mail, Firewalls, Web and File serving to custom cluster solutions and grid solutions. Brian has had the opportunity to work in both Fortune 500 companies and small 2 person organizations. This has given him the unique insight into the differences every size business faces.