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An increasing number of companies and governments are looking at non-Microsoft options, with Linux the number one threat, Gartner says.

The research firm on Tuesday combined ten separate notes into a report entitled "A Look at Alternatives to Microsoft." Among other things, it concludes that Linux and other open source software are the most popular alternatives to Microsoft software.

According to Gartner, the lure lies in the lower, and sometimes free, initial costs; the perceived freedom from lock-in with a single vendor; and the potential to help drive local IT economies. The perception of better security also drives the use of alternatives, Gartner said.

Breaking down its research by region, Gartner says that governments in Asia/Pacific, as well as in several European and South American counties, go for Linux and other open source software options because they believe it will help spur local IT industry. Such governments also tend to encourage companies to use open source alternatives to Microsoft, Gartner said.

"These countries believe they can spark their local IT industries and thus avoid having to export increasing amounts of their gross domestic product to US-based companies," said David Smith, vice president and Gartner fellow.

Fear surrounding the dominance of Microsoft is less prevalent in North America, the report said, but in that region software rivals and hardware makers are putting up a tough fight with the Redmond-based giant to push back, stop or a least slow its influence.

"Worldwide sentiment surrounding attitudes regarding Microsoft vary widely, especially by geography," said Robin Simpson, research director for Gartner. "Governments and businesses, especially outside the United States, are increasingly interested in pursuing strategies that insulate them from Microsoft's growing influence on the IT industry, even if alternate solutions aren't exactly a perfect fit."

Indeed, Gartner's Smith said that there are risks associated with the non-Microsoft route, including a need for companies to install new processes in the overall development, deployment, maintenance and support of their IT infrastructures. He added that a "disciplined and carefully considered best-practice process" is necessary to get good returns from using Linux and other open source tools and programmes. "Without it, the investments could lead to higher, unanticipated costs."

© ENN

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