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Getting real about Linux on the desktop

Selective targeting is key

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Ths short answer is

The short answer is no, but primarily because this is the wrong question to ask. The trick when considering the relevance of desktop Linux in the mainstream business context is to avoid such black and white thinking and focus on where Linux might fit as just part of the equation – i.e. consider the value of creating a mixed estate of Windows, Linux and possibly even Mac.

This view came across very strongly in a recent study conducted with input from Reg readers. Sponsored by IBM, but designed and analysed independently by Reg analyst partner Freeform Dynamics, respondents with experience identified general professional users and transaction workers as the most appropriate primary targets for Linux deployments.

The view was that the relatively light and predictable requirements of users such as these meant fewer gotchas in terms of application availability and compatibility.

Furthermore, such users often regard the PC on their desk as simply a tool for getting their job done, so don’t have strong feelings about the flavour of operating system or application software they use. These attributes mean a relatively straightforward migration, allowing the claimed TCO benefits of Linux to be unlocked without prohibitively high overhead and risk.

Unacceptable compromise

Participants in the study identified other groups,such as Windows power users, highly mobile professionals and creative workers, as being much more questionable in terms of targeting with Linux. This is because the number, type and mix of applications upon which such groups are dependent often translates to either high migration costs or an unacceptable degree of compromise in terms of end user capability or experience.

With such factors in mind, the prevailing view is therefore that one of the main keys to success when considering desktop Linux is to analyse user needs, segment users accordingly, and target deployments selectively.

Obvious, perhaps, but it was clear from some of the feedback thata common reason for desktop Linux initiatives stalling has been push-back from users who should probably never have had Linux thrust upon them in the first place, creating a generally negative political climate.

So, while looking at alternatives to the Windows desktop will not be high on the list of priorities for many IT departments, it might be worth at least considering the role Linux might play for less demanding users in particular.

For more insights into the practicalities of desktop Linux deployment in general, we hope you’ll find the report from our study useful, which can be downloaded from the Reg Library.

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