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Businesses are asking the wrong questions when it comes to putting Linux on the desktop, according to Adam Jollans, Linux software marketing manager at IBM.

Speaking today at the Linux User and Developer Conference at London Olympia, he said: "It's not Linux on the desktop or Linux not on the desktop. There are different answers for different users in your organisation. IT managers should divide users into different segments and assess their needs accordingly.

According to Jollans, Linux on government and corporate desktops is at the same point that getting Linux onto servers was at three or four years ago. He has seen an acceleration in interest this year.

Graham Taylor, director of Open Forum Europe, agreed with the analogy. He said: "A year ago we were saying 'wait' for desktops but mainstream products for most business are here now. It's 90 per cent here." Taylor believes much of the problem is business confidence rather than technology. He also said there would not be wholesale changeovers - business will change project by project and department-by-department.

Jollans highlighted three areas where IBM is seeing particular interest from customers.

These are Unix workstations in Hollywood animation studios. Secondly, application developers are increasingly using Linux machines. The third area is browser-based thin clients used by banks and call centres - they are easy to manage and offer better security than traditional PC systems, he says

IBM is also seeing interest from a set of industrial users who have not previously used desktop systems, but now need to access company Intranets. Linux PCs and kiosks are making headway in this market.

Jollans admitted there is a difficulty and resistance in moving people from the known (Microsoft) to the unknown (Open Source) - he believes resistance can be removed by offering users more cuddly penguins. ®

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