Does Linux have a future on the desktop?

ITworld.com |  Operating Systems

"It's too early for somebody to predict how it's going to come down," he said, noting that Linux is not yet as mature an operating system as Windows or MacOS.

"Don't judge us until it's done and ready," Draeker said.

"The Linux desktop (market) is something we've very much looking forward to," he said.

Despite Draeker's vision, Linux's future may not reside on the desktop at all, according to Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at market research company International Data Corp., based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

"Linux is very unlikely to become a standard consumer item on a PC," he said. Though "Linux fits very well in the specialist environment," Kusnetzky expects that Linux will never win the fight against Microsoft Corp. as a mainstream consumer operating system.

"It's fairly clear that Microsoft is going to do its best to prevent any success of Linux on the desktop," he said. Microsoft is not offering its applications on Linux and is waging a war of words against the operating system in an attempt to squash any potential success, he said. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer went so far as to call Linux a "cancer" in June.

Linux also faces the obstacle of user awareness and access to the OS, he said.

"What drives people to the selection of a desktop operating system is not the operating system," but rather users choose the application they need to do their work and then find an operating system that the program runs on, he said.

Though "almost every major (Windows) application has an analog that runs on Linux," consumers either don't know about them or don't seek them out, he said. As a result, offerings like Dell's fail, he said.

Other analysts agree. "Some really interesting stuff is happening with Linux, (but) almost none of it is on the desktop," said Charles King, senior analyst at the Sageza Group Inc. (formerly Zona Research Inc.). Rather, King feels the Linux's future lies in servers and other markets.

As the operating system is more complex than what the average computer user wants, Linux on the desktop "doesn't seem to be going anywhere -- at least not in the United States," King said, noting that Linux has found more success on desktops in Europe and Asia.

Because of this uphill battle for awareness and ease of use, Linux companies and developers are looking to other markets, Kusnetzky said.

While vendors are happy to make desktop sales, "they're kind of skipping over the attack on the desktop," he said. "My sense is that the Linux community is focused heavily on Web applications and Web services."

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