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Long road ahead for Linux

In response to the Jan. 24 Perspectives column by Charles Cooper, "The bite of the penguin":

There are a number of pundits falling in line with Linux these days. Get a little momentum going and certain obvious factors spring to light. But certain previously obvious factors drop into the shadow.

It is obvious to many that Linux is at least as good a server OS, based on capabilities, as any operating system out of Redmond. And that's before you factor in cost. However, that fails to factor in the investment most companies have in proprietary solutions. My employer would love to switch but:

• They would have to hire or retrain many system administrators.

• They would have to revise thousands of dollars worth of Web "code."

• They would have to convert a gazillion megs of databases and related code.

So, they are taking it slow in this budget climate. Meanwhile, their Linux share is growing and Microsoft share is shrinking. But, that's only for servers. We have some version of NT on thousands of desktops; those are NOT being replaced by Linux. Not on a single box.

Some of the serious techies have done it for themselves--they will be reprimanded if caught. It may be worth it. The fact remains that Linux is not really ready for "Sally-receptionist's" desktop. A month before OSX (10.1) was released, it wasn't even ready for this production analyst's desktop. (I was running it on a second machine as a learning tool.)

Linux might--perhaps should--drive NT out of the data center or at least reduce it to a minor player. Microsoft will still own 10 corporate desktops for every lost server and perhaps as many personal desktops. Linux may encroach even there but how quickly? You say "Wal-Mart"? Fine. And what happens when those people need support? This isn't OSX we're talking about here--though the capabilities are similar. There's no real base of support out there in the wild. Can you say "backlash"? Does it matter if you need support because the OS is essentially broken or because you want to update your word processor?

David Meyer
Newton, Mass.