Feeds

OSDL cautiously optimistic on desktop Linux

Meeting of minds?

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) has voiced cautious optimism that its latest initiative could finally herald a mass-market for Linux on the desktop.

OSDL is pushing ahead with Project Portland, to develop a common set of core technical requirements for Linux and open source software on the desktop, following a meeting of 47 companies and organizations it hosted earlier this month.

Portland has identified a core set of areas, spanning the interface, plug-and-play, drivers and the kernel, that OSDL members will flesh out.

The goal is to create a common framework for greater interoperability between different Linux and open source software components on the PC. A framework is expected to reduce usability issues for the end user and remove technology hurdles for ISVs who want to be able to not only port desktop applications from closed to open source but to also ensure their software works on different Linux desktops after just a single port.

In case any of this sounds familiar, it should. The Free Standards Group (FSG) in October announced the Linux Standard Base Desktop Project, which will standardize common libraries and application behavior in Linux for the desktop. Portland, which will be incorporated into the Linux Standard Base (LSB) 4.0 next year, will produce a common interface framework.

FSG's LSB was last month ratified as an ISO standard after five years' work, but only after it saw limited success in the early days thanks - in part - to a lack of support from distribution market leader Red Hat.

OSDL believes the level of support already expressed for Portland demonstrates the project's potential to be more successful than LSB at an earlier stage. Among the first meeting's attendees were representatives from Adobe Systems, AMD, Eclipse, FSG, Gnome, IBM, Intel, KDE, Mozilla, Nokia, OpenOffice and - yes - Red Hat. Many of these are also participating in the FSG's work.

"It was an eye-popping experience that these guys got together," OSDL principal analyst Dave Rosenburg told The Register. "Once those base line [standards] are established, a large majority of those guys will go with them."

He also feels the fact this work is being conducted at the OSDL brings with it the kind of clout that will establish the standard and ensure industry uptake. A critical failing in Linux and open source on the desktop has been the very noticeable reluctance of leading OEM Dell to ship a PC running Linux and a full suite of open source desktop productivity software. OSDL hopes it can overcome this by maintaining a vendor-neutral forum and regular contacts with OEMs like Dell.

Open source and Linux desktops have enjoyed varying degrees of success, despite frequent predictions in recent years this would be year of the Linux desktop. WStarOffice, OpenOffice, KDE and Ximian are played-up as alternatives to applications in Microsoft's Office, but Rosenburg says these open source suites have failed to achieve broad adoption because they lack good email or productivity alternatives to Office.

A recent OSDL poll of 3,000 users found that lack of application support was the biggest factor preventing customers from switching to an open source desktop.

According to Rosenburg, Portland could encourage a Red Hat or Novell to deliver a full open source desktop stack, which meets users' requirements on application support and addresses usability issues, such as consistency of buttons and menus between a word processing and a spread sheet application.

He resists falling in to the trap of predicting Portland means 2006 will be "the year of Linux desktop," but is confident it can capitalize on the buzz that Mozilla's Firefox has created around open source software on the desktop. Firefox has gained 11.51 per cent of the browser market in the year since its release.

"Linux on desktop has been coming for years. The last three years has been 'the year of the Linux desktop.' Firefox has made a big difference in getting open source on top of everyone's desktop - that's made it more feasible," Roseburg said.

"I won't say it [2006 is the year of the Linux desktop], but we are going to get closer. If we had a true competitor to Microsoft Office, then I'd say that will be the year of desktop Linux." ®

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.