Analyst Says Desktop Linux Still a 'No Go'

Lora Bentley

Over at, JupiterResearch VP Michael Gartenberg says Linux still isn't a viable option on the desktop. Yes, he says, Linux has made significant progress in recent years -- including Dell's willingness to support a Linux effort. But it's not enough.


His argument has three prongs. First, he points to the lack of support from a mainstream vendor. It's telling, says Gartenberg, that not even Dell's Linux offering is fully supported. He says:

When it was first announced, I asked company officials whether it was a mainstream product with full support. No, they said. The Linux machines were meant for enthusiasts who wanted a "no Windows" option. ...[A]nd significant features would be missing because of a lack of driver support.

He then calls cost the "hidden factor," noting that software accounts for only one-tenth of a PC's TCO. In other words, the fact that Linux is free doesn't amount to much savings.


The weakest link for Gartenberg, however, appears to be critical application support. He says:

...[M]ost organizations are dependent on Microsoft's applications. Anything with less than 100 percent interoperability and compatibility isn't going to make it in the business world. And does anyone believe that Microsoft will ship a Linux version of Office anytime soon? Or ever?

The implied answer, of course, is no. Gartenberg is convinced the search for a Windows alternative must continue.

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Oct 1, 2007 6:28 AM James James  says:
It's a good thing we have "analysts" who know better than we do. Excuse me, I have to go tell thousands of my fellow Linux users that their desktop systems are a "no go" and that even though they've been using it for years now, they are going to have to switch back to windows because some analyst noone has ever heard of said what they are doing now is impossible. Reply
Oct 1, 2007 7:15 AM rick rick  says:
This guy is completely off his rocker. Dell changed their policy months ago and offer some sort of support, hardware makers are improving driver support everyday, and when you add up the price of Office, Photoshop and others it could double the price of your pc. Instead we (linux users) have OpenOffice, Gimp and a program that blows away iTunes -- Amarok.Face it, Linux is here, it's growing and it will become the choice of the future. Reply
Oct 1, 2007 9:31 AM Paul Paul  says:
When are these people going to give it a rest? It's getting really boring. These people are supposed to be experts? They have probably never used linux day in day out like hundreds of thousands of us already do. It's a much stable, safer system. Like rick says, linux is growing, and will continue to grow regardless of the FUD these so called experts keep spreading. So give it a rest. Move on. Reply
Oct 9, 2007 6:04 AM LGJ LGJ  says:

My boss uses win XP. I use Mandriva Linux. Office => OpenOfice.orgPhotoshop => GimpIf I need to do something in Flash or other legacy win app => WMVare Workstation layer running under my Linux desktop. My development box desktop is Mandriva Linux as well, running VMWare virtual machines (CentOs, Win XP, FreeBSD)The server that connects all the office computers, databases, intranet web apps, printers, runs again... Linux (CentOs).Has been that way (with some consequent changes in Linux OS distros) since 2001. I seem to have a real need for an analyst to tell me what I should be using  End of story.

Oct 9, 2007 6:31 AM Megamanx00 Megamanx00  says:
Well I'll partially give him the first point. While some major Linux Vendors like Novell and Red Hat offer paid support the fact that Dell dose not offer full support may cause concern from some users. From Dell's point of view though if your getting a Linux desktop then you probably know what you're getting into and you probably use community support anyway. For a business though HP, Dell, and Levno do offer better support for Linux.As for the second your TCO will depend on your current skill set and your needs. While your first year TCO may be higher do to training for staff it will may be much smaller in the long run over a proprietary solution. Your situation and your needs must be evaluated before you can claim which solution will be better for you. For a home user that just needs software for email, surfing the web, listening to music, and writing office documents any modern Linux Distribution will do just fine. You can't tell me that buying a computer with Windows and then buying MS Office has a lower Cost than buying a boxed SuSE Linux (since the boxed version comes with support) with it's included Open Office. Most small businesses can do just fine with the latest version of Open Office. If you really need Microsoft office for those pesky macros or special forms there is always Crossover Office. Thunderbird and Firefox work just fine for e-mail and web browsing. There are also plenty of tools to listen to pod casts in Linux. Sure there is no iTunes for Linux but I don't exactly view that as a mission critical business app. For the home user who just can't do without iTunes for your iPod, even though I like Amazon better as well as Creative products, well then I guess you'll just deal with Windows. Of course good for you Open Office, FireFox, and Thunderbird all work on Windows too, which is what I end up using at work. Reply
Oct 9, 2007 11:44 AM Robert Robert  says:
Well, the key point with any teeth in this analysts comments is the interoperability issue.For me, Ubuntu is more than ready for the enterprise, but you Linux boys need to get off your "linux is superior" attitude and wake-up that enterprise acceptance isn't based upon anything more than how easily can this platform integrate into an EXISTING environments so that they don't get hit with the hidden costs of wasted time trying to make both platforms work together smoothly. Enterprises aren't just going to dump MS and buy linux. They need transitional prospects.If you want to see a distro like Ubuntu in the enterprise, you better accept that it has to be able to kiss and hug Windows and Windows apps in order to steal the hearts and minds of the enterprise away from MS. Telling me linux is more stable and safe is BS that is old hat from the linux crowd (stable, yes - secure, no way!). This isn't what will make people embrace linux alone. You have to think towards enterprise level people now. Reply
Oct 9, 2007 11:45 AM Silverlokk Silverlokk  says:
IMHO, anyone who looks only at the "free beer" side of Free Software and ignores the "free speech" side can't be called an expert (point 2). And even on the monetary cost issue, it's only in the "labs" that Free Software TCO is higher than proprietary's. There are actual, in-the-trenches, real-world calculations done by an Australian group (which unfortunately is not handy at the moment) that show lower TCO for Free Software than for proprietary (OK, mainly Microsoft). Reply
Oct 9, 2007 12:04 PM Brian Brian  says:
Having a few Linux zealots popping in and leaving "OMG, Linux is soooo great" type comments doesn't really fill me with certitude that Linux is, indeed, a real option for business desktops. I can see it might be a good thing for SMBs that don't interact much at the office document level with other businesses. However, for any business that needs to be able to transparently share complex spreadsheets (for example) with external business partners, Linux and OpenOffice just don't cut it. And, yes, I have looked at recent distros including Novell's supposedly enterprise-ready version. I tossed that out because 1) it doesn't support, even through WINE, the one application that makes this company tick, 2) it was impossible to update it to the latest (more secure) version of Firefox, and 3) their "fully Exchange-compatible" mail client is simply a wrapper for Outlook Web Access commands. For any company that relies on e-mail for internal and external communications, that's just not acceptable as there are still functions of Outlook/Exchange that OWA doesn't support.As for system security, in a business setting systems are protected by firewalls and antivirus systems. Providing proper configuration has been done, most Windows networks are no more vulnerable than anything based on Linux might be. Something else the Linux promoters forget is that as their OS of choice gains market share it will become more attractive as a target for hackers and virus writers. We're starting to see just that happen with the huge success of the current generation of Macs and their captive *nix-based OS.Ya know, it'd be really nice to get an unbiased survey of desktop OS use in large/enterprise businesses vs. SMBs. Reply
Oct 9, 2007 12:15 PM Jack Dilbert Jack Dilbert  says:
Linux desktop is great for techies who have the time and expertise to work around interoperability issues. But for the rest of the world, technical superiority does not lead to success in the mass market (witness Betamax, set-top Divx players, Apple as a business platform, etc.). Smart money is always on the de-facto standard, even if it's crap. No amount of genius or enthusiasm will overcome the overwhelming pressure to conform. The technically superior products can often carve a profitable niche (Apple), but do not tend to take over the market. The only thing that will make linux a viable corporate desktop platform is FULL SUPPORT from MAJOR vendors. Reply
Oct 9, 2007 12:45 PM Phil Pinkerton Phil Pinkerton  says:
How can someone be so narrow minded to think Linux needs a MS version of anything ? Linux applications can stand on their own. I have used Linux on my desktop in one form or another for over 10 years. Today I can do anything I need on Linux and more because I can choose what and where I get my applications. And I can ( but don't - no need) run most MS application virtually on my Linux desktop. One must realize Linux will run very well on systems that cannot run Vista and even those that struggle to run XP. Reply
Oct 9, 2007 12:55 PM Henry Henry  says:
As a developer of software geared specifically to the SMB market (hotels, car, proposals, and property management) , the number of "real" enterprise quality applications based on the LAMP stack grows daily. Our current adoption rate is 3x what we originally projected. What has been even interesting is that the number of LAMP application adopters outside the domestic United States is over 4x the number of adopters within the domestic United States. Further these adopters are primarily SMB, businesses that do not normally track on the analyst "radar" screen. Henry/Open Travel Software Reply
Oct 10, 2007 3:57 AM Dale Dale  says:
What a load of rubbish, so reason 1 there is no mainstream support, oh except Dell, thats not very mainstream??Reason 2, Linux doesn't come with a free PC??Reason 3, Linux doesn't come with MS Office?? duh!What a complete idiot, it's a name I will remember so I know whos opinion to ignore in future. Reply
Oct 12, 2007 8:24 AM em vee em vee  says:
i hate microsoft; didn't always, but their slimy ways have earned my emnity, and the worst thing about them is the upgrade treadmill, their total contempt for real world usersi want to believe in linux, really really doand lord knows i've triedtried to install ittried to get it working after installtried to keep it working after much help from alpha linux geek friends got it working, sort ofand i keep tryinghere's the truth, all you linux boosters:much as i hate microsoft, they got one thing right, and that is their stuff installs and works out of the box; it might be crap, but it's crap that installs and works; i dont have to decide which distro supports it, and get 3 dozen packages and patches before i can even try to get what i'm after, i can just download something and run an installer or get a cd and run an installer; the only decsions i need to make is whether to take the defaultsif i want to get more hands on, i usually can, but the point is that for linux there is no correlog; there is no such thing as 'just run the installer and accept all the defaults', not even for the overhyped ubuntu (which seriously hung my pc the first time i tried to install it)until anybody, and i mean even my 80 year old grandma, can install and run it without a bewildering set of decisions to make, just to find out some obscure driver or package is missing, until then linux will be a toy for geeks Reply
Nov 5, 2007 10:22 AM Robert Pogson Robert Pogson  says:
This article really brought out the fanbois on both sides...I have used GNU/Linux almost exclusively for eight years and I can state from experience that 80% of users can manage all they need to do with a desktop OS using GNU/Linux. As far as applications, if a business depends on a M$-only application, the guy who chose that application should be fired. Everybody who depends on ANYTHING should have a second source like we have AMD/Intel/VIA, Samsung/Kingston/Corsair, and Seagate/Samsung/Hitachi/Fujitsu/Western Digital. It is the mistakes of the past that lock-in businesses to M$. Upstarts will eat their lunch if IT is the size of the profit margin. Today, use web applications so that migrating the server to a new app carries the whole organization.Anyone who says TCO of M$ is lower than GNU/Linux is full of garbage. The lowest TCO is network computing/thin client/server stuff. M$ charges a licence for the server and a per-seat licence for each client. The cost of maintenance is down by a huge factor for thin clients and they last two or three times as long. M$ does not run a good multi-user OS, period. There is no way they can compete on TCO or ROI in this realm. I can swoop in an convert a whole building to thin clients on a weekend and free the operation FOREVER from licensing audits, accounting for licences, reboots for every little update, downtime, and malware. One person can easily run the whole software system without leaving his chair whereas M$ requires full-time help-desks and techs running around to sooth irritated users and their hard drives.As for GNU/Linux becoming mainstream. ASUStek recently released their eee-PC and it sold out in minutes in Taiwan. $300 for a usable laptop running GNU/Linux in 2 pounds/1 kg. These are great for mobile people like students, consultants and salespeople.Stop living in the past, people. M$ is big but it is a dinosaur unsuited to current market conditions. Reply
Nov 26, 2007 3:15 AM linux linux  says:
Personnaly I don't think Microsoft is unfit to the current market conditions, on the countrary, nearly the entier planet has a windows at home so... Sorry but it's realty. Reply
Nov 9, 2008 7:27 AM Robert Pogson Robert Pogson  says:
If M$ were good enough for the current conditions they would not have lost 30% market share in the netbooks niche to GNU/Linux.What's the burden of Vista on a netbook? $100 or so, third rate execution and threshing the L2 cache. What's their solution? Oh, year, release an OS which the world knows is on borrowed time and was obsolete 8 years ago. The marketing PR opportunity for that is huge.The world is shifting to a low-cost mode. Per-seat charges do not fit. One hard-drive per machine does not fit either. 40% of businesses regret having hitched their wagon to M$ and are looking for a way out.Look at the market in IT. We have 45nm which is great for making N-way servers with tons of RAM and storage. There is no room for Vista on servers. 45 nm is also great for making inexpensive but adequately powerful CPUs for clients. The folks who buy such streamlined clients do not want a bloated OS like Vista SP1 or 2 with bimonthly updates for malware. The mid-point between the powerful server and the tiny client are mainstream still-useful PCs out there mostly running XP, GNU/Linux or MacOS. M$ has no product to sell these folks. Vista is a dog on equipment made two years ago, the average age of PCs being more than that. There is no market to scrap perfectly good machines that will not run M$'s bloatware.There is a market for flexible software like GNU/Linux which will run on mainframes or embedded systems quite well. Reply

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