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Linux on desktop is a diverse market - really

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Don't expect hegemony from a single Linux vendor on the desktop comparable with Microsoft's Office, as rival frameworks and implementations tackle different markets.

That's according to Red Hat fellow Alan Cox, who said research indicates users are adopting KDE and Gnome to serve different scenarios. He added that business users are less interested in the technical aspects of their desktops than technology experts, and simply want something that's familiar, reliable and comes at a low cost.

Cox, speaking at LinuxWorld in London, said the slowly growing market for Linux desktops is largely dominated by Gnome and KDE. Evidence from different reports suggests KDE is more widely used in Europe and Gnome in the US.

"Everything else in the free software world gives you a package and the best [package or distribution] is used. The fact KDE and Gnome exists suggest they serve different groups of users," Cox told LinuxWorld. "KDE provides more configuration and control, and Gnome more ease of use while giving up that control."

He said it is unlikely that the leading Linux and open source distributors would co-operate on a single desktop offering until the market matures. "That will only happen at the point where there is no commercial differentiation in those tools," Cox predicted.

Cox noted that, with much debate over the desktop as the next platform for Linux, end-users are not interested in the technology debate that fuelled much of the development of KDE and Gnome. "What matters are the applications," Cox said.

Business users want a desktop that can be immediately used by those familiar with a Windows and Office interface, that provides centralized management, and that comes at a low purchase and management price.

Sticking points for desktop Linux, Cox said, are the ability for systems to scale beyond pilot projects that involve 2,000 and 5,000 machines, to provide file compatibility that is better than that provided by OpenOffice, that does away with the OpenOffice spreadsheet, and that provides a replacement to Microsoft Access.®

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