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Linux on the Desktop 444

webmaven writes "Mitch Kapor's Open Source Application Foundation just released a 34 page report on the Desktop Linux market, written by Bart Decrem, who has discussed desktop Linux previously. The OSAF is working on Chandler, which the press have generally described as an 'Outlook Killer', but it's really intended to be in a completely new application category, more similar to Lotus Agenda in some ways than what currently consider a PIM (email + contacts + appointments). The report goes into some detail about the current state of desktop Linux, trends, and various limiting factors, and concludes that while a revolution is not immediately in the wings, a trend can definitely already be discerned, and they expect adoption of desktop Linux to increase over the next few years, and identifies leverage points to accelerate the process."
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Linux on the Desktop

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  • The next few years.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:16PM (#6409373) Homepage Journal

    ...they expect adoption of desktop Linux to increase over the next few years

    At first glance that sounds terrible, almost like a death knell to Linux on the desktop. Virtually every person who will have a computer in a "few years" will already has one today. They won't be bringing in many new users, they'll be converting existing Windows users. That must keep Bill up at night.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:16PM (#6409374)
    Despite a recent surge in interest in Linux, it will fail to make much of an impression on the desktop, claims a Gartner analyst.

    Linux will be deployed on no more than five percent of desktops over the next two to three years because of a lack of viable applications, claimed Gartner research director Phil Sargeant on Thursday evening at the Gartner Symposium and ITXpo.

    "There's quite a lack of tools in that particular space," said Sargeant. "We are going to need to see more tools if it's to make any inroads." He cited StarOffice and Open Office as examples of the few good tools available.

    "The other [operating systems] are not standing still," added Sargeant. "The real question is the application portfolio for Linux. If that increases out of sight [Linux' market share] may be larger, but if it stays where it is, as we expect it to, it will be about five percent."

    Lindows, which targets the budget-desktop market in the US, offers hundreds of programs for a single fee through its Click-N-Run Web site, but Sargeant does not see this as being a serious threat to Microsoft. "Lindows is a player, but not a big player," he told ZDNet Australia . "We don't see a mass migration from Windows to something else."

    Sargeant disagrees with industry speculation that Microsoft will eventually offer the Windows operating system free to continue selling its high-profit application software.

    "They will make some concessions over and above the shared source concessions already made, but will not offer Windows free," he said. Microsoft is beginning to take Linux seriously as a threat, however, with senior executives until recently deriding it at every opportunity.

    Microsoft has even offered third-party developers access to its code, albeit under strict conditions. "It's not quite open source, but shared source is a mechanism to address some of the threats [Microsoft] see," said Sargeant. Despite the analysts' predictions, a leaked document allegedly from Microsoft suggests the strategies appear to be failing.

    However, the Linux community is not focussing on the desktop, but directing its efforts to the server market, according to Sargeant. "Most Linux distributors, for example Red Hat, are focussed on the UNIX sphere, there's no desire to move into desktops," he said.

    "Linux is the fastest growing of the operating systems, it will account for around 18 percent of revenue from servers [in the next five years]," said Sargeant. However, he claimed Linux still had a number of hurdles to jump over. He sees Linux becoming more scalable in the next 24 months, while providing the same performance, and believes eight-way servers will be "doable".

    "Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a really big topic with everybody I speak to because there is a perception that everything is free," said Sargeant. However, there are lots of components to a business's IT budget, including the operating system, hardware, applications and maintenance costs.

    "They will probably be deploying a number of licensed products on a Linux base. So they have to ask themselves if, at the end of the day, they will save money."

    At the low end of town TCO could be a factor in implementing Linux, according to Sargeant. "As you move into high-end, heterogenous mission-critical areas it will be much harder to see TCO advantages," he said.

    "Distributors are going through a lot of turmoil as they change their business model to make money out of Linux," added Sargeant. Red Hat, for example, has recently released a reasonably expensive server. The extra money buys support and services contracts.

    "Support and services really become the key to the strategy of any vendor moving forward," said Sargeant.

    Of the Linux vendors, Sargeant believes Red Hat will remain the dominant player. "Red Hat is by far the biggest distributor of Linux. It's the only one to make money and the only one to be financially viable," he said. "Red Hat will maintain a market
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:26PM (#6409450) Homepage Journal
    Having just browsed through the 34 page long PDF article for now, I found the conclusion very insightful: " Desktop Linux is no longer a technical challenge - it's a marketing challenge"

    Moreso, when the competitor is a monopolistic giant of a corporation, entrenched in a significant portion of the desktop market for about 10 years now.

    Let's just hope that desktop Linux doesn't suffer the same fate as Betamax in the disastrous Betamax/VHS battle. That's atleast one instance that I can recall, in which a superior product failed before a better marketed product.

  • Photoshop on Linux? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ignoramus ( 544216 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:28PM (#6409469) Homepage

    The pdf states that " of the studios commissioned an open source company to make Adome Photoshop run under Linux. Thanks to the open source development process, all Linux users can now run Photoshop on their desktop"

    Anyone have any info on this? Photoshop is one of the last things keeping our web designer under the giant Windows thumb so I'd love to get more details. The Adobe site only mentions Linux in relation to the PDF reader, all other references I could find were about the crossover plugin.

    And no, please don't extol the virtues of the Gimp - I've tried that...

  • by MROD ( 101561 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:32PM (#6409497) Homepage
    Having seen a great deal of hype and discussion about how Linux is going to push Windows off the desktop I see a problem with the whole subject...

    No-one's actually defined who's desktop they want to aim at.

    Now, if it's the corporate desktop then distributions should concentrate on a small number of bullet-proof applications included on the CD's. They should be set up so that they're designed to be "plug-and-play" when it comes to setting them up for a specific task and they should only allow the admin to change the look and feel etc. After all, it's an interchangeable office tool like a desklamp. Or it should be.

    If it's the desktop of Aunty May then they should target with a few, easily used and bullet proof set of applications and a desktop which is very simple to use and only does a few things but does them extremely well.

    If the desktop is for the computer hobbyist then they need a core set of programs which are bullet proof and a desktop which is customisable etc. In addition to this a lot of optional toys should be available.

    Now, which of these "desktops" do you want to conquer?

    In my opinion, for the last two, Apple have got the right mix with MacOS X, so Linux distributions could do worse than following Apple's ideas on combing novice usability with UNIX nutter complexity.

    No operating system I've seen does the "desklamp" type interchangable desktop system all that well other than maybe Sun's SunRays and other thin clients, but they rely upon server CPU to run the applications.
  • by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:57PM (#6409681) Journal
    I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. I run Linux on my home computer, but as the resident computer geek I've been called in to install Windows XP twice in the last two weeks. Whether anyone wants to hear it or not, when it comes to an average user's needs Microsoft has really got it nailed down. Installing new hardware and getting it to work is very easy, wheras Linux seems to be in a "pre-Windows 95" state. This is probably Linux's biggest weakness, but at the same time, it's a source of strength. Allow me to illustrate with a recent example.

    Last night, I added a second hard drive to my computer. If I used Windows, the system would have booted up and the drive letters for my cdroms would have all been changed, and I'd probably have to fix a few programs. (tip: re-assign all cdrom drives to drive X or Y when you first install Windows to prevent this)

    On Linux I partitioned and formatted, then I edited my /etc/fstab file to automatically mount the partitions at boot. However I accidentally put a space between the comma and a second mount option. I rebooted (to check that I did everything right), and the system choked and mounted the root filesystem read-only. I managed to remount the file system as writable (mount -w -n -o /dev/hdbX) and I fixed the problem.

    So what point does that serve to illustrate ? Well, in Windows most things like are automatic, and it's very unlikely that something will go wrong. However, there's a lot of machinery involved, so in the unlikely event that something does go terribly wrong you may be left with no recourse. In Linux it's easy to fuck things up, but you always have options. It's a "do it yourself" kind of system. And I hope it stays that way.
  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @05:04PM (#6409763) Journal
    I can see Linux gaining desktop share in corporations, but IMHO it will not be a major force in the home market for some time to come. All the current development focus seems to be on server functionality.

    Linux needs better support for hot-plugged devices, a better GUI, easier configuration, a cleaner file system, and better applications.

    By far, the majority of home computer users care about ease of use and simplicity rather than configurablity. They want applications and hardware that are easy to install and use. This is something that GNU/Linux with XFree86 does not have. And, it will have to change before Desktop Linux is common in the home.

    Check my journal for further thoughts on this.
  • by foandd ( 629361 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @05:18PM (#6409861)
    "they expect adoption of desktop Linux to increase over the next few years"
    That's what they said a few years ago.

    And they were right.

    And that's probably what they'll be saying a few years from now.

    And unless Linux's market share somehow magically increases to 100% in the interim, I expect they'll be right again.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Linux. But it's just not for mom and pop

    Hmmm. Is WinXP Pro ready for Mom and Pop? I suppose MS should just drop it now since it obviously doesn't have a future unless a blind 90 year old with a double digit IQ can figure out how to install and use it.

    Linux innovates very little except in technological areas. It's GUIs even today fall short of Windows and Mac GUIs

    I can't speak to Mac as I haven't used one. As for Windows, I've sat Windows users in front of a recent version of KDE and watched what they do. It takes them no time at all to figure out how to make it work. After using it for a while, they'll also start to discover all kinds of little things they like which make their time spent in the environment more pleasant. These discoveries will frequently be accompanied by "can you make Windows do that?" I have yet to see someone use KDE for any period of time who finds it lacking compared to Windows. Not once. The reverse has been true a number of times, though.

    I'd be interested to know what the results of your tests of this nature have been. Or are you one of those idiots who likes to spout off about something they know nothing about because they're pretty sure it'll make them look cool to what they consider the in crowd?

  • by land ( 23523 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @05:22PM (#6409895) Journal
    During his keynote, Mitch Kapor also announced that OSAF supported Senti-Metrics [] (analyist consultants who help companies communicate with their online constituencies) in the launch of [], a news and discussion site that aims to help public sector types meet open source software developers, projects, advocates and ideas.

    OSAF is also supporting Bart Decrem (author of the Linux Desktop paper), who helps develop the site's content. Like /., the site accepts story submissions from the community, which are reviewed by a team of editors (also from the community: the site asks folks to sign up if they're interested in being considered).
  • by RandyF ( 588707 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @05:47PM (#6410063) Journal
    is that the switch to Linux is really a war of attrition. I've used it almost exclusively for for over three years now. But then, I'm a geek.

    Every so often, another 10 or 12 M$ users get fed up an try Linux. Two or three stick with it. Every now and again a few hundred people buy a Lindows-based cheap PC from []. Most of those keep using it because it's simple and runs pretty good. Every now and then one of us geeks gets fed up, decides to try Linux, needs the skills for our jos, etc... and we're hooked. The rest is history.

    The whole Open Source community is a different way of thinking. It's a whole new world that takes some getting used to. Once on board, however, a small percentage of the "users" become the "contributors". With more contributors, more problems get fixed, more features get added, more things are moved to the new environment.

    As more people move to the new environment, more commercial vendors of those really cool apps decide it's worth the cost to port their apps. From Games to server-side to productivity, more new commercial apps are deciding to join the fray.

    As this "war of attrition" continues, we slowly reach the point refered to as "critical mass". That is where the percentage of users is high enough, the ease of use is good enough, and the level of "public expertise" is great enough that the Joe Sixpacks out their don't see a difference and start choosing Linux on purpose (or maybe just gets it because it's already loaded on the PC he wants and "oh, this one IS cheaper isn't it...")

    At that point, M$ quickly loses it's $ and becomes the fringe radical OS, much like what happened to OS/2 and nearly happened to Mac/OS.

    Something that is free (as in freedom), almost free (as in I didn't have to pay --much-- for it), and has a huge following that is constantly improving it will continue to increase in market share until it is the dominant player.

    In the long term (that may be a few or many years) the only people not adopting OSS will be the dinosaurs that refuse to change and have a rabid, unexplainable attachment to the M$ OS.

    As far as being a "threat to the software market", markets change over time. If a large group of people are willing to build, for free, the commodity pieces, then there is no market to sustain those software makers.

    In a "for instance": Netscape went out of business (yea, I know, AOL bought them... they still went out of business!!!) because M$ decided to offer their new, buggy browser for free. Now, M$ is going to go out of business because the public has decided to offer their new, not quite as shiney, OS for free.

    In the same vain, Oracle has, arguably, the best RDMS on the market, AND IT RUNS ON LINUX. None of the OSS dbms packages can really compete on their scale... yet. It is realy only a matter of time before the scalability, stability, and breadth of services of one or more of these OSS dbmss catch up or even pass Oracle. It will still take a while after that point for widespread adoption to kick in. I don't see that happening for another 7 to 15 years.

    M$, however, only has about 2 to 4 years left in their profit cycle... and they know it. That's why they are getting soooo nasty. Linux has already passed them up on general stability and scalability. It's really only the flashy stuff that remains to be polished.

    Yea, OSS will take over the market, with only a few niches left for commercial apps. The app vendors that don't port will go quicker because non-ported specialty apps give a valid target for the OSS crowd. (Take not Sdobe, Autodesk, Intuit, Macromedia etc...) A popular movement, like OSS, is like a train: get on board and enjoy the ride or stand in the way and get squished...

    'nuff said...

  • Re:Leverage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by morgajel ( 568462 ) <slashreader AT morgajel DOT com> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @05:57PM (#6410130) Homepage
    I've found the easiest way to convert people to mozilla is use the modern theme, turn off popups, and switch icons from mozilla to the IE's blue 'E'. Tell people that you upgraded their web browser so they won't get all those stupid little popups- that's why it looks all new and shiny. run them through it a couple of times, and introduce them to tabs.

    Openoffice has a little ways to go before that happens but I did have one instance where someone asked me if I knew of a replacement of MS office. Apparently he was using a pirated version and it crashed and crashed and crashed some more. He tried reinstalling, but that didn't seem to help. He couldn't even open a file before it crashed.

    So I uninstalled MS Office, did a virus scan and scrubbed most of his system, then installed openoffice. Haven't heard a complaint since.

    Now, whether it was a corrupted version of Office or just the viruses, I don't know. I do know that he seems to be happy and hasn't complained yet.

    I was just proud because in one fell swoop, I destroyed some viruses, stopped some piracy, pushed the OS Agenda, and got a Political Science major asking "so what is this linux thing anyways?"
  • Commodification? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eyegone ( 644831 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @06:24PM (#6410464)
    4.2.3 The commodification of the operating system

    I'm pretty sure this isn't a word.
  • by Tony ( 765 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @06:25PM (#6410474) Journal
    Needless to say, as long as Linux distributions and desktop managers continue to proliferate, the average user's requirements will never be met. I say this as a *fact* not a *prescription*, so spare me the Linux-strength-in-diversity comments. I just think you can't have your cake (freedom/diversity) and eat it too (Linux on average desktop).

    I've not seen any credible evidence to back this up. I agree with your two numbered points; however, this addendum is from the perspective of a self-admitted 15-year Wintel person. You state it as fact; but, I believe it is simply 15 years of Wintel indoctrination talking.

    If diversity were a bad thing, we'd all be driving the same kind of car, or eating the same food.

    Now, computers in general must get easier to use; but that's the truth for every single computer out there. I mean, right now we judge computers by their varying degrees of suckitude. All computers (and operating systems) suck; just some suck less.

    Also, allow me to wander a bit, and talk for a moment about evolution. One of the primary driving factors of evolution is genetic divergence. During good times, a population's genes will mix up nicely, allowing for a wide distribution of all kinds of genes. Then, during tougher times (when nature is selecting), certain phenotypes provide for better survival traits. It's difficult (or even impossible) to be able to tell which phenotype will provide advantage beforehand.

    Certain populations with small genetic diversity are at risk; if the environment changes even slightly, they may not have the necessary survival traits within the population. (Cheetahs and condors are examples of species with extremely small genetic diversity.)

    What's this have to do with Linux? Should be easy to spot: Linux has very broad genetic diversity. This allows it to survive in many varied environments. And, if the computing environment changes (as it does almost daily), some phenotypes will be more suited to survival than others. Some fall by the wayside; others survive.

    So, I won't spare you the "Linux-strenght-in-diversity" comments. Because it is not only a strength, it is a necessity if we are going to move forward in any meaningful way, instead of the monolithic singularity of commercial operating systems.
  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @06:30PM (#6410506) Homepage
    I've been using Wintel for over 15 years and have just recently installed Red Hat 9 on an older K6-2 550.

    Keep in mind that you're evaluating a primarily server-oriented distro there. If you want to see how well a linux desktop can work, you really need to check out one of the desktop-oriented distros, like Knoppix, possibly Mandrake, or maybe even Lindows.

    1. Linux is ready for *some* desktops only, namely ones where users won't be constantly tweaking and installing new software and hardware. You want a computer for grandma to browse the web, send email and view a few grandkid photos? Linux is great!

    Even though I don't agree with everything you say, you deserve your insightful mods for this point alone. Linux is, and has been, ready for Gramma for quite some time, and I have the experience to prove it.

    The average user wants to do everything grandma wants to do, but they also want to be able to install or upgrade software and hardware *easily*. In addition, they want a fully functional GUI, with no *necessity* of dropping to a CLI for everyday tasks.

    Here, I think we're seeing your bias from having been exposed to a server-oriented distro. The more desktop-oriented distros have solved both of these problems to a much higher degree than RH has. Or needs to - the servers actually benefit from the CLI, as it makes mass, remote administration much easier in general.

    They want to be able to go to a third party software/driver website, follow the 'click here for Linux version' hyperlink, download the file, then double-click to install it.

    This one is still a valid point. On the other hand, as more corporate desktops and grandmas get Linux installed for them, the more "click here to install the Linux version" links we'll see. This one will be solved before too much longer.

    Needless to say, as long as Linux distributions and desktop managers continue to proliferate, the average user's requirements will never be met. I say this as a *fact* not a *prescription*, so spare me the Linux-strength-in-diversity comments.

    Here I really disagree with you. Spare me the "fact" claim about what is, honestly, just your opinion. The real issue here is not "strength-in-diversity" - that's just a fringe benefit for those of us who aren't average users. The real issue is the openness of things like file formats. When you use MSOFfice, you're dealing with a vendor who wants to shut out the competition (and this is true even with proprietary software vendors who don't have a monopoly). When you're dealing with FLOSS, you're dealing with people who want to maximize interoperability. Thus, Gnome and KDE get closer and closer, day by day, and it becomes less important all the time which (if either) you use.

    Of course, we're not there yet, and time could prove you right, but I seriously tend to doubt that you are. This is a whole new ballgame, played by different rules, and assumptions based on the old rules are quite likely to be wrong.
  • Well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyno ( 85911 ) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @07:07PM (#6410785) Journal
    Here's how I see it. Linux on the desktop is inevitable. It is an option that businesses can choose to ignore at their own cost.

    Now if their competition somehow cuts costs using Linux and outmaneuvers them they will be answer to their share holders. But if they can somehow leverage proprietary software to make their business work more efficiently then it is still possible Linux might not become the dominant OS.

    Speaking from experience I serious doubt proprietary software can be as dynamic and efficient as OSS. But I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Listen up folks. Proprietary software NEEDS all the help it can get. Because we all know software doesn't build itself. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2003 @11:06PM (#6412146)
    First of all, Chandler is a dog. Its slow as shit. If you have a Gig of RAM and a 3.0Ghz CPU, execute Chandler and then go off and start to brew your morning coffee, come back and the main window might be visible, but the other widgets probably have not loaded into memory yet... Chandler: Good idea. Bad implementation.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk