Could IT Mood Swings Boost Enterprise Desktop Linux?

By Matthew Hicks  |  Print this article Print


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Tougher licensing and costly upgrades could trigger IT departments to wrestle for more desktop control and consider moving to Linux, panelists at the Desktop Linux Summit say. Compatibility, however, remains an issue.

SAN DIEGO—Linux on end users' desktops remains largely elusive for enterprises, but the open-source operating system could become more attractive as the demands of IT departments shift, said panelists and attendees at the Desktop Linux Summit 2004 here.

Microsoft Corp., the maker of the dominant Windows operating system, and other proprietary software vendors themselves could cause the spark for broader desktop Linux adoption by forcing IT departments into tougher licensing stances or costly upgrade cycles, said Linux backers and IT consultants at the conference on Friday.

Already, among those enterprise considering desktop Linux, the desire to take more control away from vendors seems to plays more of a role than potential cost savings, said Nat Friedman, a co-founder of Ximian Inc. and now Novell Inc.'s vice president of product development. Take Microsoft Exchange, the popular e-mail server in corporations, he said. To add directory services on top of it, enterprises must deploy Microsoft Active Directory because of the vendor's control.

"Control is one issue coming up more and more," Friedman said. "People want strategic independence from Microsoft."

But to IT consultant Robert Lewis the central consideration for enterprise is less about control and more about risk. Some vendors' overly onerous licensing terms, which in some cases even prevent users from publishing results of benchmarks and tests, could lead enterprises to more closely consider Linux, said Lewis, president of IT Catalysts Inc., in Eden Prairie, Minn.

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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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