|FROM ||Ray Connolly
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] GNU/Linux and Small Businesses
|From owner-hangout-desteny-at-mrbrklyn.com Wed Nov 6 10:45:55 2002
Received: from www2.mrbrklyn.com (LOCALHOST [127.0.0.1]) by mrbrklyn.com (8.12.3/8.11.2/SuSE Linux 8.11.1-0.5) with ESMTP id gA6FjtJe003718 for ; Wed, 6 Nov 2002 10:45:55 -0500
Received: (from mdom-at-localhost) by www2.mrbrklyn.com (8.12.3/8.12.3/Submit) id gA6FjtX6003717 for hangout-desteny; Wed, 6 Nov 2002 10:45:55 -0500
X-Authentication-Warning: www2.mrbrklyn.com: mdom set sender to owner-hangout-at-www2.mrbrklyn.com using -f
Received: from nsmail1.natsource.com ([18.104.22.168]) by mrbrklyn.com (8.12.3/8.11.2/SuSE Linux 8.11.1-0.5) with ESMTP id gA6FjtJe003712 for ; Wed, 6 Nov 2002 10:45:55 -0500
Received: by nsmail1.natsource.com with Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19) id ; Wed, 6 Nov 2002 10:45:33 -0500
From: Ray Connolly
Subject: [hangout] GNU/Linux and Small Businesses
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 10:45:32 -0500
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19)
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
Reply-To: Ray Connolly
List: New Yorkers Linux Scene
Admin: To unsubscribe send unsubscribename-at-domian.com to hangout-request-at-www2.mrbrklyn.com
Although not a entirly accurate, this is a very encouraging artical.
*Especially* the bit on retail stores.
Linux for the Rest of Us
By: Erick Schonfeld
Issue: November 2002
With the long-awaited emergence of dirt-cheap new applications, the desktop
alternative to Microsoft finally has emerged.
The clerks at Zumiez, a national chain of snowboard and skateboard shops,
tend to stick out from the crowd. And it's not just because they sport black
hooded sweatshirts or smack their gum while ringing up your kid's new $100
"deck." It's what lies under the hood of the old Compaq computers they use
as cash registers that makes them true deviants.
Not a single computer in Zumiez's 98 stores from Bellevue, Wash., to
Syracuse, N.Y., runs the industry standard -- Microsoft's Windows operating
system and accompanying Office applications. Instead, Zumiez has embraced
the populist newcomers to the desktop, the open-source Linux OS and a free
assemblage of new Linux-based programs. In place of familiar Redmond brands
like Outlook, Excel, and Explorer (for e-mail, spreadsheets, and Web
browsing), technology director Lee Hudson has store clerks and managers
tooling around on programs called Ximian Evolution, Gnumeric, and Mozilla.
The names might sound like Zumiez's myriad skater brands, but they stand for
something a tad more radical: the possibility that, at least in some
markets, Linux is finally becoming a viable alternative to Microsoft (MSFT)
products on commonplace PCs. According to researchers at IDC, Linux's share
of desktop operating systems is 2.4 percent. That's nothing, of course,
compared with Microsoft's 93 percent, but it could soon surpass the 3.1
percent that Apple Computer (AAPL) controls with the Mac OS.
Like all open-source software, Linux applications are developed by amorphous
communities of programmers who work on the code in their spare time. The
fruit of their labor is intellectual community property -- in other words,
it's free. According to IDC, Linux already holds a 26 percent market share
in corporate back offices running servers. But Linux on the desktop is
something new, and the early converts are so far limited to two kinds of
businesses. The first are retail outlets like Zumiez and call centers such
as Ernie Ball's (of guitar-string fame), where clerks and customer service
representatives equipped with stripped-down PCs need only a handful of
applications to do their jobs. The second batch of early adopters are
companies with sophisticated technical workers, such as programmers and
engineers, who are already familiar with Linux servers. Such users generally
find it easy to work with Linux on their high-end workstations.
However different they are from each other, the two groups choose Linux for
the same reason: It can save a bundle of money. Hudson, for instance, needed
a desktop OS that would run the company's cash register, employee
scheduling, and inventory-control systems. He also needed a browser that
would link easily to the company's intranet, an application that would
easily open spreadsheets, an internal e-mail system, a calendar, and contact
programs. Setting up all of that using Windows machines running Microsoft
Office and Outlook would have cost Zumiez more than $500 per computer, or a
total of about $50,000. But after experimenting with programs like Ximian
Evolution, Hudson found that, with the exception of point-of-sale software,
he could simply download everything he needed, free of charge. "Now we can
do a whole bunch more stuff without investing more money," he says.
Mike Prince, chief information officer of Burlington Coat Factory, has also
made the switch. Prince is responsible for all of Burlington's 325 stores
across the United States, but he lacks a large enough tech staff to support
them. So the half-dozen computers at each store now run on the Linux OS and
Sun Microsystems's (SUNW) StarOffice, a package of Linux-based
word-processing, spreadsheet, and slide-presentation software that runs
about $50 a copy. He figures he saves at least $250 per machine by forgoing
Microsoft Office. "Six machines times 325 stores," he muses, "and you are
talking about almost half a million dollars." The real savings, though, is
in the cost of administration. Prince found it easy to load and run his
Linux applications on hand-me-down equipment, and he says the new setup
isn't as prone to viruses as Windows and hardly ever crashes. "Linux
desktops," he explains, "really just got viable."
Linux is also breaking new ground on more sophisticated desktop machines. At
Verizon (VZ), IT managers expect to save as much as $2.4 million by moving
300 programmers at its nationwide IT facilities from expensive Sun and
Hewlett-Packard (HWP) workstations to less expensive models running Linux.
The developers, who had been working with the company's Linux servers, found
that making the jump to the desktop was no big deal. Similarly, Amerada
Hess's (AHC) geophysicists and seismologists, who had been prospecting for
oil by running 3-D simulations of the ocean floor on a cluster of Linux
servers, began to ask for Linux on their workstations so they could run
parts of the same programs on their desktops. "I can put an Intel
workstation on their desks and still give them access to the applications
they're used to with Linux," says Amerada programmer Jeff Davis. Now,
instead of dishing out $15,000 for each machine, the company can spend just
Why do desktop users seem to be discovering Linux only now? The reason has
less to do with the Linux OS, which has become increasingly common on
servers in the past decade, than with the availability of quality
applications to run on top of it. After years of hard, collective labor,
developers recently passed a series of important milestones, or "inch
markers," as they are called by Jon Hall, president of Linux International,
the budding movement's trade organization.
First was the advancement in early 2001 of point-and-click, Windows-like
interfaces, the most prominent of which is known as Gnome. (Before that,
desktop Linux looked more like the old Microsoft DOS.) Second was the
completion of applications like Ximian Evolution -- for e-mail, contacts,
and group calendars -- that were built on top of Gnome. Third was
OpenOffice.org, the open-source cousin of Sun's StarOffice. The 1.0 version,
released in April, is surprisingly compatible with the applications in
Microsoft Office. (If someone sends you a Word document, you can read it in
OpenOffice.) And most recent was the June release of Mozilla 1.0, the first
competitive open-source Web browser for the desktop. Most users agree that
these applications don't quite measure up to their Microsoft counterparts
(see chart). But for the money, they are good enough to form the makings of
a Windows alternative.
Lurking behind many of these developments is Sun, the Microsoft nemesis that
takes every opportunity to capitalize on the dissatisfaction of Microsoft
customers. For starters, Sun donated the source code to start OpenOffice.
Then in September, it announced plans to offer its own Linux-based desktop
package for business customers. The software bundle includes Mozilla,
StarOffice, Ximian Evolution, and Sun's version of the Linux OS.
Sun's moves are in part a response to Microsoft's decision last year to
change the way it charges for software licenses. Redmond's new policy
translated into an estimated price hike of 35 to 107 percent for those
wanting an upgrade, according to Gartner analyst Alvin Park. John Fowler,
Sun's chief technology officer for software, warns that this licensing
change should be "a huge wake-up call" for customers, because "any policy
Microsoft sets can dramatically affect their business."
Perhaps. But whether Linux becomes a mainstream alternative to Windows
really depends on the quality of applications that companies like Sun and
Ximian can put out. Linux still makes sense only for certain kinds of
businesses, and it has a long way to go before it appeals to the great mass
of ordinary civilians. It's still very tricky to install on a PC for mere
mortals. True, in September, Wal-Mart (WMT) began selling a $200 PC with a
Linux-based operating system supplied by San Diego startup Lindows.com. But
as the early reviews of Lindows suggest, you get what you pay for: little
tech support, and only a handful of applications you'd want to use.
If Linux can build the quality, though, the demand is clearly there.
Zumiez's Hudson wanted to standardize on Linux at headquarters in addition
to the stores. But he recently ran a trial with OpenOffice and concluded it
wasn't yet ready for wider distribution. For about 80 percent of its uses,
the program worked fine. But when executives opened spreadsheets with
elaborate formulas, formatting would change or data would disappear. Such
glitches point to the biggest paradox of competing with Bill Gates: The way
to make Linux a true competitor to Microsoft is to make it work seamlessly
with Microsoft products.
New Yorker Free Software Users Scene
Fair Use -
because it's either fair use or useless....