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So why has Linux failed to live up to expectations?

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Paris held its first Linux Expo around five years ago and the hype then had Linux equalling or surpassing Windows on the desktop within five years, recalls Bruce Tober, who wrote about several of those Paris Expos. Linux is gaining significant ground, especially in the business world, but that early and optimistic prediction has clearly failed to bear fruit.

So why has Linux failed to live up to the expectations of so many industry insiders, including Jacques Le Marois, co-founder of French Linux company MandrakeSoft.

And so at this week's Networks for Business/Linux User & Development Expo, we asked some industry experts this very question. The event opened yesterday and closes tomorrow at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

"Linux is facing a situation similar to that facing IBM's competitors in the 1970s and '80s," Jim McQuillan, founder and project leader of the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP), told The Register. "Back then the iron-clad rule in business was the no one ever got fired for buying IBM. Today it's a case of no one ever gets the sack for buying Microsoft."

Microsoft, he said, puts enormous pressure on CPU manufactures to package Windows with their machines and to prevent them from either packaging no Operating System or a competing OS on their machines. "Several companies dared to put Linux on their boxes, but due to enormous pressure from Redmond, they quit doing so," he claimed.

Overcoming the situation and providing Linux with a greater share of the market involves "voting with our wallets," McQuillan said. And that, he explained, should be rather easy, considering how expensive Microsoft products are in comparison to a free Linux OS and very inexpensive Linux programs. That, he added, must pertain all the more so, to non-US governments and large corporations. "Surely," he said, "they're getting very tired of seeing their money go to Redmond."

Echoing his thoughts is Dr John Pugh, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament (Southport). Pugh, who speaks mainly on science subjects for the Lib Dems, told The Register that he's astounded by Linux's "limited take up in the UK despite its security and low cost." This, he said, is very much due to "consumer ignorance". This ignorance is down to a marketing strategy, which is "in part flawed."

According to Pugh, the public sector needs "lots of hand-holding (technical support) with its IT. But the Linux community is not able to provide that." Asked whether the enormous amount of hand-holding available to all Linux users for free from the world-wide Linux community via its online newsgroups, e-mail lists and other resources, isn't enough, he said it's not.

"The public sector needs its vendors or some other single source of expertise," he explained. Such hand-holding needs to be and to be seen to be professional, expert and available at all times with immediate answers. ®

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