While discussions about the relevance of Linux as an alternative platform for client devices continue (and indeed it has established itself in several corporations and government agencies) two events from yesterday should serve as a reality check for all those who believe it should (and will) replace Windows.
At an ASUS product showcase in Sydney, Australia, there was no trace of Linux, even if ASUS was the first company to bring a Linux netbook (the eeePC) to the mass market. Apparently less than 5 percent sold with Linux, while all others sold with Windows XP. I’m sure most of you have the same experience when entering a computer store: can you find the Linux version?
The second episode, more personal, was a meeting with a manager at an Austrian IT service provider specialized in the financial services sector and moving into the government market. One thing he said stroke me: although Vienna had been quite vocal about the move to an open source desktop (see Gartner research note, subscription required), it looks like there is much less interest today.
This is not to say that Linux is dead on the client. But it is certainly true that the drive we were seeing just a few years ago is no longer there. There was a wave of interest when people were looking into the option of migrating to Vista and there were doubts about for how long Microsoft would support Windows XP. Now, with new netbooks being shipped with XP, and Windows 7 at the horizon, one has to look for reasons in favor of Linux as opposed to reasons against Windows.
Thin clients. virtualization and – ultimately – cloud computing will keep corporations on their toes for what concerns the next generation of client devices, and Linux will play an important role. But for those politicians and government executives who were praising the value of open source for the masses, well, there is certainly some food for thought.