ex-World Bank CTO: Desktop Linux Interrupted

ex-World Bank CTO: Desktop Linux Interrupted

Summary: If you're a member of the press and you write anything that's remotely critical of Linux's chances of success on the desktop (which I have), the Linux community unleashes a fury of fire and brimstone upon you. Invariably, your credentials to make any such judgment are dragged through the mud and a few people who like to take the heat get into the fire in your defense and the angry mob becomes even more enraged.

TOPICS: Hardware

If you're a member of the press and you write anything that's remotely critical of Linux's chances of success on the desktop (which I have), the Linux community unleashes a fury of fire and brimstone upon you. Invariably, your credentials to make any such judgment are dragged through the mud and a few people who like to take the heat get into the fire in your defense and the angry mob becomes even more enraged. When I write, I try to put myself in the head of an IT professional and wonder how they might view a particular situation and what sort of criteria might be driving their decision-making process. I think I'm qualified to do this. I used to be one of those IT professionals, responsible for developing customized database solutions and setting corporate standards for everything from desktop software to mainframe connectivity solutions and supporting thousands of end users in their use of PCs and networks. "Phooey" on your background and education (computer science, by the way) I'm pretty much told.

But now that the former CTO of World Bank W. McDonald Buck is chiming in on why desktops without Windows are financially harder than you think, perhaps the entire Linux community will take a deep breath and say "OK, we've got a problem."

Topic: Hardware

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  • What is Buck's Relationship To Microsoft?

    Does he own Microsoft Stock?

    Is he friends with Bill Gates?

    We need to know if there is an agenda.

    We have found out that the CEO, CIO etc have more than not been liars out for their own gain.
    • You're proving David's point

      You're attacking the credentials and the credibility of the person, not discussing the issues raised in the article.

      "We need to know if there is an agenda."

      Everyone has an agenda. For many, it's the discreditation of anything and anyone showing anything less than complete disdain for Microsoft, regardless of the technical issues.

      "We have found out that the CEO, CIO etc have more than not been liars out for their own gain."

      We have? Since when? Do you have evidence that the CEO and CIO of the World Bank are 'on the take'?

      Carl Rapson
  • bank CTO knows the woes of linux and it blows

    subject enough said and no i do not own any microsoft stock nor am i friends with bill gates or anything else!!!!!!!!!
  • Tier 1 manufacturers. We know. Don't tell us, tell your representative

    Essentially it is a decade now since Microsoft
    was told by a US court that they could not give
    more discount to a customer that sold no other OS
    than to a customer that sold another OS.

    Microsoft never complied. Check out the out of
    court settlement they paid to Be (BeOS) for this
    very reason.

    US law is a total joke. If you disagree, then
    explain how the above happened.

    And so, Microsoft continue to behave badly, and
    there are no politicians that care enough (heck
    maybe they think it's better for the economy -
    which it isn't) about law and people's perception
    of law.

    Pretty much now, I'd say big Corporations think
    they can buy pretty much what they want, law,
    politics, wars.
  • having read Bucks article...

    He has a very good point. I've spoken to friends who keep hearing the MS hype about it being cheaper, (mostly from their jobs,) and when I tell then that a home system is cheaper going with Linux they try to tell me about the research on the MS 'Get the Facts' site.

    I explain about teir1 purchasing, corporate contracts, enterprise support, upgrade options, difference in cost of switching form Windows to Linux versus going from nothing to one or the other, etc., they just don't get it.

    I think that Buck's points are both true and valid. If I were to buy an IBM, HP, Compaq, Dell to load Gentoo, it would be cheaper to buy a Windows box and wipe and reload. Chalk one more sale for Windows, zero more for Linux, the free download.

    I actually tell them to buy a white box from a recommended local system reseller but they want the confidence that comes with owning a Dell. I ask them to ask how many times any Dell owner called Dell with a hardware issue and how many times they called with a software issue.

    It ends up that most, even if they think it is a hardware issue --except for those that still refuse to protect their modems with a simple surge protector-- it is software and usually MS software. So if you could elliminate the software issue and retain the exact same amount of hardware issues --i.e., zero-- then why not?

    But in corporate enterprize America that is not how the game is played. Tier1 vendor or nothing. Pay for support or nothing. Buy your upgrades or nothing. Good show.

    Sad but good. Lets see how we can fill this gap. I shall take on dell. Who is with me?
    The King's Servant
  • Well, David, I for one can't fault you on that issue ...

    You are certainly correct in affirming that this is a problem. There is currently no major generic Intel hardware vendor (insert Dell here?) standing behind Linux. And besides Dell and HP, who else is there these days? They are the vendors that enterprise users prefer. Dell has been totally uninterested in desktop Linux and HP may be interested, but their PC vendor types certainly aren't. Clearly something will have to change in order to fix this problem. Right now HP is quietly selling and supporting Linux PCs in Europe. Perhaps that will break the logjam. And then there is IBMs troubled PC divestment. If that ever happens, the Chinese might start selling Linux hardware on a grand scale ... if that ever happens. One thing I am convinced of though, it WILL happen. It won't happen in the US, Microsoft is simply to powerful here and their very presence is intimidating (still), but somewhere else in the world it will happen, and once it does, it will spread back here and MS will be powerless to stop it.

    You are also VERY correct about TCO studies. They are a joke. They all make assumptions and that is the root of the problem. There are companies that have switched to Linux and are crowing about all the money they are saving. There are others that have switched and they swear it was the worst decision they ever made. And I don't think either are lying. Every case is different. I am a staunch and passionate advocate of Linux, but I advise my own customers to think long and hard before they make any kind of rash move. Soft transitions are the best approach. There are still a lot of areas where Linux is not there yet and where things can go terribly wrong.
    George Mitchell
    • Switching to linux. Things to consider

      The Linux distro you choose is pretty important.
      For newbies, mandrake is pretty good.
      I'd go for KDE every time over Gnome.
      Also the skills of your staff are pretty
      important. If they've put in a lot of time over
      the years to learn linux, you're probably going
      to be ok.
      Also budget for any hardware changes that might
      be necessary. In the same way a lot of 95/98
      hardware won't work with XP (and vice versa), you
      might find some things don't have drivers (some
      cheap scanners for example).
      The size of this problem (as it would be for any
      upgrade or change) will depend on the mix of your
      Also if you have a large proportion of people
      with deep macros in office, it's going to take
      time to swap them over. So it depends on what
      people do with their computers.
      Moving corporate applications to web applications
      is a good move to help migration, and you can do
      that before the event. (note avoid anything that
      uses ActiveX or lots of javascript and so on.
      Just nice simple RELIABLE web apps).
      • I agree, but the issue is the US corporate market ...

        There is a huge difference. The corporate customer is looking for support, support, support. They really don't care what might go wrong or where the problems might be. They just want to pay a known amount of money and receive a known amount of services in turnkey fashion. And when it comes to Linux, this poses a problem. The service end is pretty much in place. They can go to IBM and Red Hat and be pretty much covered. Most of them aren't really worried about the IP issues either, they have dealt successfully with those for years. But what really DOES worry a lot of corporate buyers is precisely who will be left holding the bag when it comes to hardware. Enterprise users are not into the same do it yourself approaches that home and small business users are. If ANYTHING goes wrong, they want a phone number to call 24/7. Dell and HP CERTIFY their hardware to run with Windows. If there is a problem with running Windows on a Dell or HP desktop for ANY desktop application, Dell or HP will foot the bill for simply making it work. But neither Dell NOR HP currently offer similar assurances when it comes to Linux. And that leaves this unknown quantity simply hanging out there and enterprise users flee from unknown quantities like the plague. The server is not really an issue in this regard. There is plenty of Intel hardware certified to run Linux on the server level. But it is a problem on the desktop. And that is why the HP-Mandrake initiative in Europe is SO important. If successful, it could mean that finally there will be Linux certified Intel hardware for the desktop in the US. Its not here yet, but it is potentially in the wings.
        George Mitchell
        • Doesn't HP support Linux?

          HP has Linux desktops and from the page (http://h71016.www7.hp.com/dstore/ctoBases.asp?ProductLineId=429&FamilyId=1886&jumpid=re_R2515_store/smProdCat/PSG/desktops/HP_Compaq_dx2000_microtower) it looks like they support it in the same vein as Windows.
          • Note the disclaimer at the top though ...

            I think it reads something like:

            HP recommends Microsoft?
            Windows? XP Professional

            That is an indication that HPs support is less than enthusiastic. HP is being much more aggressive in Europe though, and that is likely to be where the breakthrough will be.
            George Mitchell
          • Not a disclaimer ...

            I don't think that's a disclaimer as much as Microsoft advertising on the 1st-tier web-sites (Dell has a similar advertisement).

            It took a little more digging to find http://www1.us.dell.com/content/products/compare.aspx/precn?c=us&cs=04&l=en&s=bsd on Dell's web-site (and it also has the Microsoft advertisement on top).
          • It will be perceived as one ...

            George Mitchell
          • Doesn't HP support Linux?

            Look at the ad again:

            1) Mandrake Linux costs $23 *MORE* than Windows

            2) The Windows offered is XP Home! No IT person would have that in an enterprise environment.

            Apples and Oranges. Bait and Switch. Call it what you want, the bias seems clear ...
          • Linux Zealots

            Linux Zealots (just like any other zealot out there) turn a nice discussion into a microsoft-biased evil-corporation mud pond
      • You are missing the point

        The discussion here is not about "distros", nor is it about KDE or Mandrake. The issue discussed in the article is about the nonexistance of Tier 1 channels for big companies, with very tight and standarized protocols to buy Desktop Linux boxes.

        "Moving corporate applications to web applications
        is a good move to help migration, and you can do
        that before the event. (note avoid anything that
        uses ActiveX or lots of javascript and so on.
        Just nice simple RELIABLE web apps)."
        comment is so out of line there, if we are discussing, say a large telco with everything based on Lotus Notes, they will not even consider the switch because of all the man-hours the adaptation to Domino would take, and besides, as the article goes, there's nobody out there to sell them computers (unless you tell AT&T to go buy @ walmart).

        Please read the articles before posting, and if you don't know what the heck the article is talking about, just keep your posts to yourself.
    • More on the TCO issues ...

      A great deal depends upon the needs of the enterprise as well as their technical prowess.

      If the enterprise is already supporting a large-scale UNIX or Linux operation, supporting Linux on the desktop, either in transition or from the start, may not be much of a challenge but, if the enterprise either has no UNIX/Linux expertise or they rely solely on the hardware vendor to provide support, such a transition could be a nightmare.

      Sometimes, the IT department decision is based upon what the CEO uses at home (or the latest and greatest OS they just read about) -- not what is easiest for the IT department to support. Sometimes the decision is tied to the previous deployment of applications which have interoperability issues.

      In the end, each enterprise must consider not only the bottom line cost of buying the workstation but a myriad of support, compatibility, and interoperability issues, in addition to the office politics of the day.
      M Wagner
  • Correct prognosis but wrong diagnosis

    I totally agree with the prognosis. I've been using Linux for 10 years. I finally is about phase out. Linux is no use other than hacking programs or run a web-server. The main problem is that there are no decent useful s/w to run on Linux boxes, other than crappy unix junkies. This is the main reason that desktop Linux is not gaining. They argue about low-cost of Linux systems. Spend a fortune to buy Linux installed boxes and run what! Mostly I work using Windows. I can ger lots of decent quality s/w at no cost! Make desktop s/w on Linux as good as ones you can find in Windows. Then people will use and even pay money for developers. Otherwise, not many people will waste money to buy old junkies.

    Linux is offered by Tier-1 companies. So Buck's opinion is ill conceived. He completely missed the marks.
    • No decent software?

      OpenOffice isn't decent? I think it is better
      than MSOffice (and many people I know agree).
      Also Firefox (and thunderbird) or Mozilla or
      Konqueror/Kmail are better in the ways that
      matter to me (and many people I know) than
      InternetExplorer and Outlook.

      Linux never falls over unlike Windows, and KDE is
      great. These views are not just mine, but the
      views of a lot of other people I know. (regular
      guys in the street, not computer people).

      Tier-1 companies get a better deal on windows if
      they don't sell anything else (or sell windows
      incorporated into the price of a PC regardless of
      whether Linux is installed).
      Yes Microsoft lost a case, and they were told
      this was illegal. But guess what, they go ahead
      and do it anyway. Do you see the US government
      doing anything about it? Nope. Proof is that Be
      (BeOS) got a ton of cash off microsoft recently
      because they were still breaking the law.
    • Again, we are NOT talking about the home or small business user ...

      but about the enterprise user. The enterprise user is looking to deploy Linux on the desktop where the application set fits the job at hand. That is a given. An example would be the Hollywood movie industry. They virtually funded the applications they needed to make Linux a cornerstone in their video editing and rendering operations. The corporate user understands and can handle the application end of the equation. What they will not tolerate, however, is lack of hardware support. What the tier-1 companies (IBM/Red Hat/HP/etc.) are offering now is SOFTWARE service support NOT HARDWARE support on x86. Once the generic Intel hardware support is in place, the applications will follow, because the corporate space will fund them if necessary. Applications are a known quantity. You pay X amount of money and whatever you need gets written or ported. Making a particular OS work correctly on a given piece of hardware is unquantifiable. Without the hardware vendors explicit cooperation (ie. certification), it can be impossible.
      George Mitchell
      • You keep beating that drum

        but I think your info may be a little old. We have HP consultants on site, and HP does service their hardware -- event if it is running (gasp!) Linux.

        If it made any difference, my home desktop would go Linux if Electronic Arts / DICE converted BF1942 to the Linux platform.