Linux: Lost in the trough of disillusionment?

The IT industry hasn't fallen out of love with the idea of desktop Linux, but the honeymoon period is over

In any love affair there is a honeymoon period where everything is rosy, optimistic and blissfully free of any negativity. But this kind of blind affection doesn't last forever. Eventually, as both sides get to know each other more intimately, the honeymoon period gives way to a more realistic appreciation of each other's strength's and weaknesses – a positive readjustment.

The IT industry's love affair with everything Linux is undergoing just such an adjustment at the moment. After being hyped as the panacea for everything wrong with the Wintel monoculture, the rose-tinted spectacles have finally come off and serious and realistic questions are now being asked about whether Linux is really going to usurp Windows across the board.

This adjustment is more advanced when it comes to server deployments where the OS has earned its stripes and is well into the realistic appreciation phase. However, the adoption of Linux on the desktop is lagging compared with data centre deployments and is mired in the transition between honeymoon and realistic appreciation.

Analyst Gartner Group released a study this week which claimed that desktop implementations have up until now been characterised by "over enthusiasm and unrealistic projections which lead to more failures than successes". The analyst has an adoption model called the Hype Cycle which represents the pattern of blind devotion followed by readjustment. According the analyst firm's schema, desktop Linux has gone through the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" and is now slipping into the "Trough of disillusionment". However this is not as bad as its sounds, providing the OS continues to move forward, the next step is to transition into the "Slope of Enlightenment" and eventually to the "Plateau of Productivity".

But escape form the trough is not guaranteed; just as some relationships falter after the honeymoon period, the Linux community must convince its IT industry admirers that they have a long-term future together.  The cause has not been helped by the fact that the City of Munich – one of the most high profile migrations to desktop Linux to date -- has been delayed. The massive amount of attention that has been focused on Munich has no doubt contributed to its decision to take its time and get the migration right. This is undoubtedly the right decision. A high profile failure at this point certainly will not help. But a solid, proven success will go some way towards ensuring that the IT industry's interest in desktop Linux is more than a passing infatuation.