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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] Microsoft Vs. Linux Desktop Battle Heats Up
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 17:29:22 +0100
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Microsoft Vs. Linux Desktop Battle Heats Up
Linux vendors are trying to make a dent in the desktop market in both the
business and consumer markets
By Paula Rooney, CRN, InformationWeek
June 9, 2003
The Linux vs. Windows desktop is heating up on both the business and
At the Enterprise Linux Forum last week in Santa Clara, Calif., SuSE
demonstrated its first enterprise corporate desktop designed for large IT
infrastructures. SuSE Linux Desktop is priced at $598 for a five-user
license and comes with a five-year maintenance contract, said Holger Dyroff,
general manager of Americas at SuSE. It offers a corporate GUI and a choice
of running Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 6.0 or Microsoft Office and starts
Ximian also demonstrated its enhanced Ximian Desktop 2, expected to begin
shipping Monday. The Linux GUI is based on the Gnome 2 platform and
incorporates an edition of OpenOffice.org that features support for
Microsoft Office file-compatible documents. The GUI runs on many leading
Red Hat, for its part, plans to debut an enterprise corporate Linux desktop
in November, said a source close to the company. Red Hat's first enterprise
desktop will feature an enhanced BlueCurve GUI, updated Linux 2.4.2x kernel,
Sun's Java Virtual Machine, support for Windows applications and seamless
access to Microsoft Exchange via a connector, the source said. The product
is expected to be priced between $99 and $139, the source added.
Several IBM Global Services customers using Red Hat Advanced Server are
evaluating the corporate desktop as an appropriate companion to Red Hat
Enterprise Advanced Server, the source added. Red Hat is also preparing a
consumer desktop upgrade for release this fall, code-named Cambridge, but
customers want a version supported by Red Hat's enterprise product groups,
the source added.
"Customers want to get off the dependency of Microsoft, including large
corporate shops, but they want a Linux desktop with a three- to five-year
life cycle, not updates every few months," the source said.
Red Hat executives would not confirm this report.
On the consumer side, Lindows.com is preparing to release a major upgrade of
its consumer desktop, LindowsOS 4.0, in mid-June, executives confirmed. The
company, which prevailed in court against Microsoft on its spin on the
Windows trademark for its Linux desktop, has cut a deal with a third-party
software vendor to ensure compatibility with Microsoft Office, Windows, and
Windows applications, sources said.
Clearly, there is interest in the open- source operating system. A newly
released report by research firm IDC shows Linux server revenue was up 35%
in the first quarter of 2003 from the year-earlier period.
But that server-side strength has yet to carry over to the desktop. Linux
accounted for less than 2% of client operating system shipments in 2001,
according to IDC, which hasn't yet released comparable numbers for the Linux
client operating environment.
Microsoft appears to be anything but cocky, even in client operating
systems, where Windows dominates. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last week
acknowledged competitive concerns about Linux on the desktop in a memo to
"In this environment of lean IT budgets and concerns about Microsoft's
attention to customers, noncommercial software such as Linux and OpenOffice
is seen as interesting, good enough or free alternatives," Ballmer wrote in
a company memo last week. "We will rise to the challenge."
SuSE's Dyroff acknowledged that Linux has made little progress on the
desktop to date but said that four or five Fortune 100 SuSE customers in the
United States "are looking at" SuSE Linux Desktop as a companion to the
company's recently released Enterprise Linux 8 Server. He also pointed to a
deal arrived at with German insurance company Debeka to switch 4,000 Office
desktops to SuSE Linux Desktop.
While many claim that the threat of Linux on the desktop is overhyped, and
that it has served mainly to give Microsoft's customers more leverage when
negotiating contracts, a spate of highly publicized defections from Office
to Linux desktops, primarily overseas, has Microsoft worried. These include
a recent decision by the city of Munich, Germany, to migrate 14,000 desktops
and notebooks from Office to Linux. According to published reports, Ballmer
flew to Munich to save that customer account but failed.
Linux solution providers maintain the emergence of corporate Linux desktops
with better Office compatibility will make a big difference in the long
"There are significant barriers to overcome, with Microsoft's virtual lock
on desktop apps," said Kevin Gates, Linux specialist at Denver Solutions
Group, which is evaluating SuSE Linux Desktop. ""I don't see us making sales
on desktop for at least another six to eight months. But the desktop is like
the server was two years ago."
Another Linux solution provider claims Microsoft is digging its own grave on
the desktop side.
"The tide is turning, and Linux will increase rapidly now on the desktop as
Microsoft continues to increase software prices and make unfair policy
changes that costs customers money," said Bob Toxen, chief technology
officer of Fly-By-Day Consulting. "The biggest problem for Linux on the
desktop is that most users are used to Office and are too lazy to want to
change. But given the lower productivity and higher dollar cost of
Microsoft, smart management will say that all new installations will be
This article appears courtesy of CRN, the newspaper for builders of
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