Email 'crucial' to desktop Linux's future

Research from the Open Source Development Labs has found that the take-up of open source on the desktop could falter unless email applications improve
Written by Karen Gomm, Contributor

Email functionality will be the most significant factor governing the take-up of Linux on the desktop according to a study published this week.

The Desktop Linux Client Survey 2005, organised by the Open Source Development Labs, found that the lack of a powerful email application could hinder the adoption of Linux on the desktop.

A lack of application support is also holding back Linux, according to the survey of over 3,300 users. This was cited as the most serious hurdle facing Linux on the desktop.

The survey was conducted by the OSDL Desktop Linux Working Group in October 2005. It found that without quality email applications, Linux on the desktop was not a feasible alternative for most users as email was rated the most important application regardless of platform.

The survey results sent out a clear message to application vendors to focus on developing a quality email application for the Linux desktop.

At present, Novell's Evolution, a groupware client for Linux, provides email, calendaring, tasks and contact management functionality and can connect to Microsoft Exchange, but there are few alternatives.

Mozilla developers are already addressing this issue. The Mozilla Foundation recently published an initial roadmap for 'Lightning', the project to integrate its calendar application Sunbird with its email application Thunderbird. Sunbird has been available as a separate extension for Firefox and Thunderbird for a while, but there's been little integration between calendar and email functionality.

The Desktop Linux Client Survey was carried out to find the key issues driving Linux on the desktop as well as the barriers to adoption.

Peripheral support and end-user training were the other most popular reasons cited for not deploying Linux on the desktop. Some users suggested that end user training issues could be alleviated if Linux supported more common desktop application such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.

The belief that Linux is mainly used as a developer tool was shattered by the survey, which cited employer demand as the top reason, closely followed by the need to keep up with competitors who are using Linux. The survey suggests a cultural shift has occurred among business, with many now willing to seriously consider open source.

Licensing costs and total cost of ownership were the most popular reasons given for deploying desktop Linux, while few users cited security as a factor.

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