According to Gartner, by 2008 Linux desktops -- which the research firm boldly says could attain as much as 30 percent market share -- will have about the same number of viruses as Windows desktops. However, Windows will be disadvantaged because many Windows applications will be tightly bound with operating system code, creating a kind of double whammy situation. Gartner recommends desktop Linux today for limited function applications, such as terminal-based data entry work.
Ballmer dismissed the notion that Linux on the desktop has any momentum. "There is no appreciable amount of Linux [desktop] anywhere in the world," he said, pointing to the study for the city of Paris that determined an open source desktop would have an unacceptable ROI impact. "People can sit here and read the drama stories from other parts of the world and assume they are true or not. People said the city of Paris said it was going to adopt Linux and the studies came back. It would be dramatically more expensive than Windows, and there is no ROI case for the next seven or eight years to even consider a movement from Window to Linux in the city of Paris. In Brazil, it's the same thing," Ballmer said.
He has also dismissed open source Microsoft Office competitor StarOffice, describing it as being as "good as what we were shipping seven years ago," citing lack of total compatibility with Microsoft Office and a robust email client. He also brought up the lack of indemnification against patent and intellectual property infringement for many open source distributions as a deterrent to adoption of Linux.
The city of Munich, Germany has reached a different conclusion, despite recent concerns about infringement claims. Ballmer viewed the Munich deal as critical enough that he personally tried to persuade the mayor of Munich to stay with Windows. "Yes, we lost the city of Munich," Ballmer said. "But, the fact that the same story gets told 65,000 times, and there is still only one customer… still diddling around to some degree to decide when they are going to do the migration... come on, where's the evidence? In China, our products have higher market share than in this country, but of course most of it is not paid for."
It was also unclear as to whether Ballmer was including Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) in his scorekeeping. Although most people think of traditional Linux distributors like Red Hat and Novell when discussing desktop Linux, at least one version of JDS is a Linux desktop (it's bundled with Novell's SUSE Linux). Sun also just announced a Solaris x86-based version of JDS, but it only runs on Sun's AMD-based workstations. JDS is getting some traction. Although Sun CEO Scott McNealy admitted that it wasn't going to be much of a money maker for his company, JDS was viewed as having scored a victory when the Chinese-backed China Software Standard Company agreed to license 500,000 copies of the desktop suite.