At the end of 2003 industry experts speculated whether 2004 would be the year when Linux on the desktop moved from an academic curiosity to a real alternative to Microsoft.
It didn't happen. Apart from the Allied Irish Bank and a handful of others, the private sector has given desktop Linux a wide berth so far.
The public sector has been braver, with numerous organisations including government departments in Paris, Munich and Singapore making aggressive migration plans but not all of them followed through. Paris City Council nixed its plans in the short term due to the costs of migration. Munich put its migration on hold for a few months while legal issues were sorted out, but the process is now due to start in the New Year. Singapore plans to install Microsoft Office's open source competitor OpenOffice.org on 20,000 PCs, but has been unwilling to commit to migrating to Linux.
In a speech at the Gartner Symposium in October, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer seized on these setbacks as clear evidence that Linux is no competition on the desktop.
"There is no appreciable amount of Linux on the client anywhere in the world," said Ballmer. "The city of Paris, people said the city of Paris was going to adopt Linux. Well, the studies come back, it would be dramatically more expensive to move to Linux, there's no ROI case for the next seven or eight years to even consider a movement from Windows to Linux for the city of Paris."
"Now, Munich is Munich. There is the city of Munich. Yes, we lost the city of Munich. But the fact that the same story gets told 65,000 times and there's still only one customer and they're still -- how do I use a good, polite word here? -- they're still diddling around to some degree to try to decide when they're really going to do the migration. I mean, come on, where's the evidence?"
The question may have been rhetorical but Ballmer may soon get his evidence. The Norwegian city of Bergen recently announced plans to start migrating to Linux on the desktop next year.
Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, announced its decision to migrate to Linux on the server earlier this year. It has already transferred the majority of the servers in its educational network from 100 Windows NT to Linux, and is expected to migrate its database servers from HP-UX and Microsoft to Linux.