Why desktop Linux fails in big organizations

Why desktop Linux fails in big organizations

Summary: If desktop linux works and saves money, why don't we see more organizational adoption?


I believe that the key reason Unix hasn't taken over the generic office desktop has nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with the people and processes involved.

Thus the generic corporate PC user I talked about yesterday would be completely unaffected if someone snuck in overnight and replaced the PC running Windows/XP below her desk with one running something like Ubantu Linux - as long as our saintly break in artist perpetuated her login ID and password while ensuring that whatever application client she uses first, auto-starts on login.

And that reality raises a question: since, in theory at least, this would save larger organizations some serious money, why don't we see it happening everywhere?

And the answer, I think, is that the IT groups in place in most larger organizations are now numerically dominated by people whose roles and self imagery depend on knowing something about using the Windows PC - and asking them to implement desktop Linux is like asking the Marlboro man to see himself as a victim still clutching his parasitic badge of poverty as they wheel him off to the cancer ward. It just isn't going to happen - and if upper management insists on trying to force it, well then the wheels are going to fall off that chair and everything else will go expensively wrong until management folds its tents and retreats into the shared Shenandoah valley dream.

The bottom line is a simple, and unbeatable, consequence of human nature: if you don't align your technology with the values of those charged with making it work, they won't.

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source

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  • the reason is productivity

    ...generic corporate PC ... would be completely unaffected if... whatever application client she uses first, auto-starts on login

    yeah I agree they are that way -- needing the auto-login

    as they went about their mundane tasks, see how their productivity is affected. I switched a user with a reputation for being 2X as productive on to open office/RHEL and ...

    Some people learn one way and want to stick to it. I personally don't see open office as being an viable alternative.
    • open office is a viable alternative, by my mind.

      Well, I have 30 Sled users for 3 years and they work without any pain. In our company there are 1700 oo.org users and it works. So I think open office is a viable alternative. It only depends on you when you will start the change. I know it's not an easy way, but if someone works as an IT specialist, he must be able to do it!
    • The interesting question is

      Given that Unix on Intel existed long before Windows was born (and possibly before it was even thought of) why does Windows exists at all given Unix's obvious enormous superiority?
      • the answare is :)

        I think you are wrong. The PC/Intel platform was the base of MS Dos and not Unix. Unix/Linux is now available o nevery hardware platform.

        Windows is on the most of the PC-s because MS has contracts with hardware vendors. :(

        Will see where will Dell/HP with Ubuntu go. Lets speek about it some mounths later :)
        • Unix was available on Intel in 1982

          Gates really is a genius, he sold everyone Trabants when a Mercedes was already available!

          Or could it be that Unix is not quite as great as its protagonists pretend?

          Not of course that I wish to promote or support the beast of Redmond in any way but I do think the rest of the industry has to move on from Unix if it is to beat MS.

          When we switched to Unix from a proprietary minicomputer system back in the early 90s one of our administrators said of Unix: "It's just like xxxx [insert name of long dead mainframe system that we had prior to the mini]".
          • Rememe er Xenix?

            Microsoft sold Xenix before it sold MS-DOS.

            And your admin? Dead wrong - just like the guys who say similar things today.
          • It was hard for the Admin, Paul

            He'd grown used to a modern operating system and Unix was a big shock for him (not as big a shock as Windows 3.1 was though).

            On the whole from where I was standing as an Analyst Programmer at the time Unix looked seriously regressive.

            It seems to me that with the rise of Unix and Windows advancement in systems programming entered a twilight world.
          • Microsoft won because of IBM

            In 1982, IBM was the world standard for technology, and when they finally, and reluctantly, introduced a PC based on MS-DOS, it became the IBM standard. All of corporate America had to have it. And the individual market had to be compatible with their work. IBM was so disinterested in the PC market that they even used a poor DOS licensed from a kid named Bill Gates who had licensed it from Digital Research. But, it became Microsoft's bread and butter.

            As for UNIX, they had a similar problem to that of Linux currently. There were too many competing flavors, and the suppliers could not agree to make them compatible.
          • A quibble

            Microsoft did not license their DOS from Digital Research. They bought it (originally named QDOS for "Quick and Dirty Operating System") from Seattle Computer Products for, I believe, $50,000. QDOS was a CP/M work-alike OS, though. Microsoft licensed it to IBM, and eventually PC clone makers.

            Re: Unix flavors

            The same thing's been happening with Linux, though there was an effort a few years back to create a Common Linux Base so that there would be a basic level of functionality that would be compatible between all distributions. Anyone know how well that's gone?
            Mark Miller
          • When PCs were stand alone equipment the major

            failures of Microsoft DOS were not evident. The major problem then was an occasional system crash. This was troublesome, but not a killer problem at the time.
            Update victim
        • And???

          [i]Windows is on the most of the PC-s because MS has contracts with hardware vendors[/i]

          So do Linux Distros, so that meams little. Would there be anywher near the numbers of computers and users in the world if they only sold with Unix or MS-DOS?.

          No Vendors signed these contracts as they knew they could move much, much, more hardware with Windows then they could with Linux, Unix, or DOS.
          John Zern
          • Did your timeline come from

            Ward Churchhill?
            Update victim
      • Cost

        Because UNIX for that early PC was going to cost you over $2500, which was almost what you would have spent for the hardware alone. Plus it was geared for server use.

        It was that high cost that made people want to find alternatives,and fueled the development of Linux.

        At the same time, Windows added many of the features available in Unix including multitasking. The Unix workstation market (different that the desktop market) disappeared, being squeezed by Windows, Linux, and Mac.
      • Simple answer

        [i]Given that Unix on Intel existed long before Windows was born (and possibly before it was even thought of) why does Windows exists at all given Unix's obvious enormous superiority?[/i]

        Because Microsoft sold MS-DOS for $40 per [u]system[/u] when the Unix shops were charging more like $2000 per [u]user[/u], then included MSWin3.1 as a freebie with MSDOS.

        The Unix crowd were too busy trying to prevent interoperability with the other Unices, and they were [b]very[/b] happy with their fat margins on high-end systems. High-volume, low-margin wasn't part of their business plan.

        NB: consider that Caldera/TheSCOGroup still wants to charge $799 per processor for Linux. Them was the good old days, no?
        Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Have you ever heard of anti competitive contracts?

        The history of Microsoft DOS includes extremely low prices for OEM DOS in a contract that prohibited the sale of any other operating system. This continued until the DOJ won the anti trust suit against Microsoft.

        I suspect that many of the sellers of Microsoft DOS did not know of the anti trust laws that they were violating by entering into this contract.
        Update victim
    • Bogus argument

      Tell me, precisely how learning Office 2007 keeps you productive, but learning Open Office makes you unproductive.
      • Uhhh....

        Sticking to Office 2000 keeps you productive?
        Erik Engbrecht
  • All above & more..

    Techies come into 2 primary flavors - the MS softies and hardcore *nix (with MS capabilities easy). Unfortunately for most organizations, the MS softies dominate as they are cheaper to hire (greater economies of scale) as they are literally a dime-a-dozen. For these MS 'pros', they wouldn't be the first to adopt for fear of losing their jobs and 'revenues' in first place. Guess how much is a MS product license vs. an opensource? Greed does exist among geeks, you know.
  • OpenOffice.org

    I think you are quite wright. The first thing a CIO must do when try's the Unix way (not only on the desktop) is to fight against the IT department. If he success, and knows the IT Department behind himself, than can he start to walk on the unix/linux/oss path.
    In 2003 we started to use openoffice.org on every new PC we bought. Now we use more then 1700 PC with only OpenOffice.org. After this 4 year I can say that the first problem is always with the IT Department :)
  • wrong , wrong , wrong ...

    Wrong , wrong , wrong ... I have the distinct feeling columnists like yourself get so caught up in their writing style that they 'actually believe' the trype their purveying ... Whew! Did it ever occur to you that WINDOWZ users , by nature , are just plain lazy ??? I imagine , much to the chagrine of large corporate types , that the security breaches their Windows users show , while in their midst ... must lead to quite a few sleepless (cyber)nights ... The security details you refer to in your article are there for just that ... for security ... Any Linux user , ?professional? or not , can be thankful for this extra level of security when dealing with sensitive files ... Unix based , or not , Linux security features are a perfect fit for corporate communications ...