update The launch of Windows Vista has created a huge opportunity for Linux vendors to take a larger share of the corporate desktop market, according to the president of Linux Australia.
New features combined with a slightly different look and feel mean that migrating to Vista from an older version of Windows will cause disruption in the workplace.
On the first day of Linux.conf.au, the president of Linux Australia, Jonathan Oxer, told ZDNet Australia that instead of retraining staff on the new version of Windows, administrators could make the switch to Linux.
"People will have the choice -- they are going to get a major disruption and have to learn a whole new interface and way of working to switch from a previous version of Windows to Vista.
"It's just as much disruption -- or as little disruption -- to move to a version of Linux ... So what we will probably see is that a lot of companies now are going to very seriously consider, when they do their next refresh cycle, not switching to Vista but switching to a Linux-based platform instead," said Oxer.
This is a view shared by Tim Anderson, Information Services Director at the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET). In an interview with ZDNet Australia late last year, Anderson highlighted user retraining as a significant cost.
"One of the big costs the DET always faces when changing platform is retraining -- because we have 1.2 million users. Traditionally we try to make the new platform look like the old platform as much as possible.
"Clearly some of the changes to the user interface may well be things that users find attractive. In that case we will have to include the cost of implementation and training as part of the [Vista] rollout," he said.
Anderson also said he is considering increasing the number of Linux-based desktops.
Linux Australia's Oxer believes that the next year and a half will be a very important time for the Linux and open source communities.
"Right now is probably one of the biggest opportunities that Linux has had to make huge inroads on the desktop at a large scale corporate level ... it will be very interesting to see what happens over the next 12-18 months.
"It is going to be a really critical time that will lay out the computing landscape for many years to come," he added.
Vista missing "interesting" developments
Oxer criticised Microsoft for leaving out "interesting" improvements in Vista -- such as a new file system -- in order to meet marketing deadlines.
"Vista is a big step up from the existing system but it doesn't have any of the radical groundbreaking underlying architectural changes that we were hoping for. It is more of an incremental change, which is quite disappointing given that it has been so long since the last major release of Windows," said Oxer.
He also compared Microsoft's approach to that of the open-source community.
"The open-source community takes less of a big bang release approach and more of an incremental release approach. One of the basic tenants of the OSS development is release early, release often. So you don't go five years between releases -- and then have an apocalyptic earth changing scenario," said Oxer.
However, Oxer conceded that in some cases large corporate users may prefer long product release cycles.
"There are flip sides. If you are a corporate you don't necessary want an incremental release model. You might want a stable environment for five years -- so there are a whole lot of elements to it," he added.