Could it be that SMBs will provide the push needed to advance the much-discussed yet still largely hypothetical idea of the Linux desktop?
Maybe so, if Linux distributor Red Hat has anything to do with it. Its latest platform release, Red Hat Linux Enterprise 5, bundles together an Advanced Platform for servers and an updated desktop. The packaged approach, along with beefed-up support and documentation, could win fans among SMBs, says Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio in this CIO Today article.
The Linux support question is an especially big one in the minds of most businesses -- especially SMBs, who are unlikely to have Linux talent in-house.
The timing is certainly right, as Microsoft's Vista and Office 2007 are causing businesses of all sizes to weigh their allegiance to the software giant. SMBs have more flexibility than their larger brethren when it comes to switching as they tend to have less money tied up in hardware and software. While early sales of Vista look good, it's logical that some folks are considering a switch, either to Apple or Linux.
Red Hat also rolled out the Red Hat Exchange, an online marketplace where users can buy, sell and rate open source software from Red Hat and open source competitors. The venture seems to be designed to educate business users -- and especially SMBs -- about open source alternatives to traditional software and to reassure them that support is available if needed.
Red Hat competitor Novell is making a bid for the desktop business of SMBs with its Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, which was released over the summer. Also in the running: IBM, with its just-released Open Client Platform.