Linux as a viable business desktop platform

While no-one can doubt the widespread use of Linux as a server platform – the latest figures still show a clear lead for Apache, Linux’s flagship web server software – it’s take-up on the desktop has been slow. OK, let’s be honest, it’s take-up on the desktop has been virtually non-existent. For example, ask any of your non-techy friends if they’ve ever used Linux and you’ll probably hear most of them say “no”. Or possibly even “what’s Linux?”.

It’s an unfortunate situation to be in, as trying to rock the monopoly of Microsoft isn’t an easy thing – I would guess just their marketing budget alone is bigger than the combined budgets of most Open Source software development companies. Still, Microsoft has brought the computer to the masses and without that there’s no chance anyone would use anything – whether it’s proprietary or free.

So it’s a bit disappointing to see that a respectable online magazine misses a trick in an otherwise excellent piece when talking about the new Microsoft OS Vista compared to Linux. The trick they’ve missed is this:

Alternatives? Desktop Linux is the obvious choice but there remain gotchas. For example, while the bases are pretty much covered in terms of basic applications such as OpenOffice, there’s still no credible open source replacement for the Outlook client, in which many workers live from day to day.

True, most workers do live in Outlook day by day, and they need to know they wont lose that functionality if they move to a non-Microsoft system. So it’s good that there is such software freely available.

Evolution, sponsored by Novell, is the free software world’s answer to Outlook. And it’s good, with features that would look respectable on anyone’s desktop. It even integrates with Exchange, Microsofts email server system.

I don’t pretend to believe that Linux is the be-all-and-end-all of computing, the world needs commercial software just as it needs commercial everything else. However the gap between Microsoft and the free software world is narrowing, and I’d love to see more businesses take on Linux for their desktops.

Me? I’m waiting for Ubuntu Studio. Once that is released, it’s been unfortunately delayed (see? it even happens to the good guys!) I see no reason to use Windows at home. Fantastic.

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