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Commentary: Linux on the desktop

How serious a threat is the alternative operating system to Microsoft? For those who are mulling a switch, the key is to follow the money.

Commentary: Linux on the desktop
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
November 9, 2004, 9:00AM PT

By Simon Yates, Senior Analyst

In June, Forrester surveyed 146 IT managers responsible for enterprise PC procurement, management and support to learn about their PC hardware and client operating system strategies.

Fifty-six percent of the respondents were employed at enterprises--companies with 1,000 or more PC users--and 44 percent at small and medium-size businesses with fewer than 1,000 PC users.

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More than half of the companies we surveyed will not replace any Windows-based systems with Linux, but for those that do, lower costs are the prime motivator.

The big question looming over the client operating system environment is whether Linux poses a serious threat to Microsoft's dominance of the desktop. For the 15 percent of companies that will not deploy Longhorn, there are two options: stick with Windows XP through 2011 or switch to an alternative platform like Linux. Our survey showed that:

• Across the board, most firms will stick with Windows. Fifty-five percent of small and medium-size businesses and 47 percent of enterprises told us that they will not replace any of their Windows-based corporate desktops with systems running Linux. Why? Many companies are committed to the Microsoft platform and have built their application environments around Windows. Respondents also expressed concern that the cost savings wouldn't be significant enough to warrant a major shift in platform.

• Linux adopters expect significant cost savings for hardware and software. For those companies that do plan to deploy Linux to some extent, the primary motivators are lower total cost of PC ownership, easier and cheaper operating system licensing, and lower cost of acquisition for hardware and applications.

• Applications are the key Linux driver. To justify expanding Linux deployments, companies most need greater availability of business applications on the Linux platform, followed by feature/function parity between open source and Microsoft productivity applications, and greater reduction in costs to justify the investment.

© 2004, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.