Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

Summary: Don't expect mainstream adoption for Linux five years down the road, even if Linux operating systems become more user-friendly, say analysts.


The Linux desktop experience is now closer to the Windows environment than before, but the gap in mainstream adoption for the open source OS will not close anytime soon, says an industry analyst.

Laurent Lachal, U.K.-based senior analyst at IT advisory firm Ovum, said inconsistencies across Linux distributions still stand in the way of wider user uptake.

"For one, Linux has two main GUIs (graphical user interfaces), KDE and Gnome. Some see that as choice, but overall it confuses the market," Lachal told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview. He added that each GUI is further tweaked for different distributions, further compounding the disparity.

Different distributions also have different ways of allowing users to perform tasks, such as terminal commands.

The netbook example displays the level of inertia that Linux has to fight.
Laurent Lachal, Ovum

Some distributions also try to mimic Windows as closely as possible in order to entice Windows users to migrate, but has often resulted in only "good enough" experience for "basic" enterprise tasks.

Lachal said: "Usability is not a problem with Linux, but the issue lies with application support."

John Brand, Hydrasight's research director, said in an e-mail interview such support issues have plagued Linux, and still do. "The majority of organizations still find application incompatibility and lifecycle management an issue for Linux-based desktops," he said.

Linux can be suitable for "light use" by some members of a company, but this mix-and-match approach where both Windows and Linux platforms are deployed is not typically considered cost-effective, Brand explained.

And while Linux desktop projects may rate well with users during pilot deployments, the "complexities of having a mixed environment generally dilutes any benefits Linux may otherwise provide", he added.

He highlighted Microsoft's integration with its other office products that increases the reliance on the Windows OS. The most significant example of this has been Microsoft SharePoint, he said.

"We see that [SharePoint] adoption has become widespread and often entrenched as a core part of the enterprise IT infrastructure," Brand said. Competing software such as open source document management product Alfresco, has not yet managed to appeal to users to a similar degree, he noted.

Furthermore, device support is still an issue, he said. "Without the commercial drivers for open source, market momentum is variable at best," he added.

However, Laurent disagreed. He said lack of driver support "is still an issue, but overall it has been solved".

Greg Kroah-Hartman, Novell programmer and Linux Driver Project lead, noted in an earlier interview with ZDNet Asia, that the "problem" of device makers resisting the Linux community is not an issue. He said the coders at the Linux Driver Project were getting requests to make Linux-compatible drivers for hardware "all the time", suggesting growing adoption of Linux OSes among enterprises.

The netbook example
The biggest gap Linux needs to close is the maturity of its channel, said Ovum's Laurent, adding that the platform lacks vendor support and market visibility.

Although Linux had the headstart in the netbook game--with Asus supporting the open source platform--Microsoft eventually overtook the lead because "the market was not ready".

Laurent said: "Sales people were not trained and did not understand [Linux] because the sales channels were not experienced. Thus, they could not sell [Linux-based] netbooks properly and customers were unhappy."

Furthermore, Microsoft's decision to extend Windows XP's lifespan for the netbook market was sufficient to sway users back into the familiar Windows camp, indicating that consumers tend to prefer what they are most familiar with, he said.

"The netbook example displays the level of inertia that Linux has to fight," he noted, adding that because of this inertia, Linux will remain a "minority" OS for another five years.

"It will be used more extensively in the enterprise but will not dramatically challenge Microsoft or Apple in the consumer space," he said.

Topics: Software, Open Source, Operating Systems

Victoria Ho

About Victoria Ho

Victoria Ho is a tech journalist based in Singapore, whose writing has appeared in publications such as ZDNet, TechCrunch, and The Business Times. When she's not obsessing about IT, you can find her tinkering with music and daydreaming about which guitar to buy next.

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  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    Having been on and off trying to get a functional Linux system working since 1998, Ubuntu has finally pulled it off. With Adobe Air and some cloud apps, it's very close to solving the issue, even with Samba and making it a LAMP server on the side with excellent memory. However, I have found some applications especially on the office side, Linux apps have a long way to go. And try to find a Visio replacement GOOD LUCK!!. Fact is Linux could be used to deploy repetitive process systems such as POS, and maybe generalized office work. However, to tell a Professional that's all you have, Linux better get on the ball.
  • RE: Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    I had the Visio problem also until a friend of mine told me about Gliffy. I used it
    and it is actually better than Visio in my opinion. Plus--if you save a Visio file as SVG
    it does not retain its looks when you open it in Inkscape (an open source tool). But,
    when i saved my Gliffy illustration as a svg file and downloaded it it retained the illustration
    perfectly. Bye bye Visio. Now, if only Google would buy them.
  • RE: Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    Wow! Which professionals are using Visio. I always thought Visio was a poor excuse for software compared to the real professional tools, being mediocre at some things and good at nothing. Admittedly I haven't used it since the 2003 release or any other MS software since then, when they broke all my Access databases for the 9 millionth time with upgrades that weren't backward compatible. Since then I've used FOSS for everything except CAD which I still pay for on Linux.
  • RE: RE: Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    Well, things in comouter indfustry moove so fast that 5 year prediction souds ridiculos.
  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    Another completely ignorant and unfair "analysis". Linux ALREADY RULES in the top 500 corps of the top ten 7 run Suse Linux. As for mainstream adoption yes it is slow but had NOTHING TO DO with technical problems but as an American critic so correctly pointed : Linux has no marketing strategies. To be fair are Mac computers to be MUCH better now than in the past? No Way but a brilliant marketing strategy by Apple capitalizing on the disapointement with Vista pushed Mac sales to record highs. To say that people will refuse Linux because it has to slightly different while there are 12 DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF VISTA is ludicrious. Of course the author was just reporting others finding but by doing so and selecting the articles simply showd a bias to commonly found on zdnet.
  • What gap?

    What gap?
    "Last year (2005), Red Flag vice president Zhongyuan Zheng stated that Linux had attained 30 percent desktop marketshare in China. "
    Then Microsoft started a FUD/Propaganda campaign which claimed that Windows overtook Red Flag and that Linux was now a "minor player" in China. Microsoft's "Technical Evangelists" kicked in, along with the usual MS sock-puppets who picked up on that bogus story and a myth was born. What we don't know is exactly how many expensive laptops were given in quid quo pro for pushing this myth.
    With the failure of VISTA and the guarantee that Win7 will be as insecure as XP and VISTA, causing experts to recommend that a Linux LiveCD be sued for online banking and shopping, one can only guess as to how high Linux usage in China will climb to, unless Microsoft re-encourages piracy of Win7 to combat Linux.
  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    I love Ubuntu.. I have been looking for Project Management tool (MS Project) for Linux.. Anyone knows of a open source tool ?
  • RE: Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    try ganttproject

    I agree with some of the views above, I feel there is a need to get the word out on linux, mac didn't become sucessful by making sure it was available online for people to voluntarily download, neither did windows, it came bundled with the computer.. whether you like it or not, you pay for it.. and in some cases, your computer is stuck with it, no choice to you.

    People growled and cried foul(@vista) for a while, but then they made it irreplacable to their computers, same with my computer and ubuntu.. the difference is that my OS is getter better everyday and I'm loving the security
  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    If you want to kill Windows, kill Office first. Open Office does not cut it. This piece of junk does 60% of Office, the basic things, it needs to do 120% or more. Then concentrate on the OS - what about the Apple-Linux gap? Perhaps a more realistic strategy is to focus on the usability of Apple Mac OS, Polecat or whatever.

    I hate to say it, but Microsoft is one large well-defended enemy. Open source efforts, Ubuntu, other efforts, etc. are nothing but kamikaze attacks. Gurgle has the right idea, but is also smart enough not to engage in a frontal assault. Linux systems should appear to the consumer, personal or corporate, as a single entity as does Microsoft. And then a marketing strategy...
  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    Linux sucks because i can't install those little things that send millions of emails behind my back and make some websites crash
  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    I started using Linux 3 months ago and have converted all of my computers over. They still have Windows on them if I want it, but the occasions to use Windows is decreasing. Performance all the way around has been enhanced. The secret to success is to join a local users group so that you can quickly iron out any difficulties getting things up and running. Once you do, everything just works and works fast. I have no patience for Windows anymore.
  • Linux-Windows gap to remain for five years

    Most windows owners (me included) own an ipod. I can't easily (note the word EASILY) synch my ipod with a linux PC. So my choice is Windows or Mac. From that choice, I choose Windows.

    Give me a choice, and make software compatible with major devices such as ipods, and I can THEN recommend people swap (myself included).

    Sorry to be harsh but reality bites sometimes.
  • Visio is a poor excuse, must like most other of 'Their' products. Office is BLOAT BLOAT BLOAT feature upon feature which the average nobody would want (But its now shiny so i want want want.....especially with that sales commision guy over there saying is sooooooooo good!)