Linux's losing desktop war

The good-news, bad-news story we published last week by Peter Galli was bound to ruffle a few feathers in the open-source community.

The good-news, bad-news story we published last week by Peter Galli was bound to ruffle a few feathers in the open-source community

Regardless of how well we positioned the news that a Linux DB2 configuration beat Microsoft SQL Server in TPC benchmarks, the accompanying news of Linux's continuing struggles on the desktop will be what Linux fans will focus on.

That will be true especially in the wake of the firestorm created this month by Microsoft executive Craig Mundie's anti-GPL comments and the open-source community's angry—and completely justified, in my opinion—response.

The thing is, any time someone criticizes open source or Linux or makes comments that can be interpreted as criticism, that person is setting himself or herself up as a target for an attack.

It's good that the open-source community is so impassioned by its craft; Linux, Apache and other products never would have succeeded without that zeal. But the time has come to focus and direct that passion, or more open-source companies will suffer the same fate as Eazel, the GUI developer that closed its doors this month.

No company that tries to compete against Microsoft at its own game will win (see Novell, Lotus and Corel). The success of Windows 2000 gives IT managers less reason to find an alternative desktop solution in Linux. And no credible IT manager will go with open source just to spite Microsoft; he or she will go with it because it adds more value, reliability or stability than a commercially developed product.

Many open-source vendors are admitting this. Linux will always be there for users or developers who need a powerful workstation, but no one truly believes Linux will replace Windows or the Mac as a desktop for the masses.

Linux's future is obvious, in servers, embedded devices and integration services thereof. That's where development efforts and business plans should be focused. It's OK that the desktop is never going to be conquered. It's a battle that is not supposed to be won.

Fire away at me with your comments at scot_petersen@ziffdavis.com.