Enterprise IT managers, frustrated for the last three years by Windows Vista, have recently begun to move Linux from its traditional home in the datacentre out to user desktops. However, it's still very much a minority option and Linux's progress could be halted in its tracks by the release of Windows 7, which is widely seen as the logical upgrade for those still running XP.
Whether or not Windows 7 will actually put paid to Linux on the desktop remains to be seen. But to give you flavour of how the two platforms measure up, we've compiled a brief illustrated guide, comparing key business features as implemented in Windows 7 and the latest version of the world's favourite Linux distro — Ubuntu 9.10, otherwise known as Karmic Koala.
Ubuntu Linux is free and can be trialled from CD without installing anything to hard disk.
Although there's no direct upgrade from XP to Windows 7, it's easier than moving to Ubuntu.
Hardware support is much the same, and both Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10 come in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. However, Windows 7 licenses have to be paid for, while Ubuntu is open-source and free. Vista users can upgrade in place, while there are tools to help you migrate XP desktops. However, if you're switching from Windows to Ubuntu you'll have to start, more or less, from scratch.
Windows 7 will be available preinstalled on new PCs, but Ubuntu can be trialled from CD without being installed onto the hard disk at all. Tools to help with large-scale rollouts are available for both operating systems.