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Desktop Linux - still about freedom

Hi freedom lovers everywhere.

The 2007 Desktop Linux Survey results are out and freedom still tops the list for those that are deploying Linux desktops.   You have to do a little digging in the results to uncover this salient fact, but when asked about deploying one or more of the pre-installed Linux desktop/client products, the results were that 56.6% of the recipients believed that pre-installed LInux offerings did not meet their business requirements.

Now that several pre-installed Linux products are available, would your organization be likely to deploy one or more of these pre-installed Linux desktop/client products?

  • Yes, our organization has been waiting for pre-installed Linux offerings. - 42.4%
  • No, pre-installed Linux offerings do not meet our business requirements. - 57.6%

These responses definitely came from an "enterprise deployment" perspective.   When IT decision makers and system administrators listed the issues with deploying pre-installed Linux offerings, they indicated that freedom trumps convenience.  When deploying corporate desktop systems, the administrators want the freedom in defining settings and configuration options.  The choice of Linux distribution is import as well.  IT organizations do not want to be locked into the Linux distribution vendor that is pre-installed on the hardware they have selected. 

On the flip side, 42.4% indicated that their organizations have been waiting for pre-installed Linux offerings and these offerings would meet their business requirements.   These desktop Linux deployments take advantage of the integration testing, system management, and support that comes from pre-installed offerings with Linux distribution support.  However, even with these desktop products the administrators will tweak configurations settings, define pre-loaded sets of applications, and set security and remote access policies (VPN) before deploying the clients.  Freedom is still a huge factor in deploying and maintaining pre-installed Linux clients.

This survey was not directed to consumer users of pre-installed Linux desktop systems.  When you move outside of the geek and developer circles, everything just has to work out of the box.  Pre-installed Linux systems are very important to the consumer circles.  They need to be able to power on the machine and be immediately able to play their mp3s, play their DVDs, browse the internet, use their office productivity tools, set up their printer, manage their photos, and download applications that are interesting to them.  Most Linux distributions that are targeting the consumer markets support this level of turnkey operation.  The latest one that I have tried with outstanding results is a Ubuntu-based distro called Linux Mint.

So who actually took this survey and were there any other interesting results?

The survey was sent out with a shotgun approach, but a profile of the recipients can be derived pretty closely from the responses.  The typical respondent...
  • came from a small company (1-100 people) - 69.4%
  • is an IT professional or software developer - 43.3%
  • is involved with computer software companies or education/research - 35.9%
  • is from the US or Europe (this is the English version) - 86.5%
  • has already deployed Linux  - 64.1%
All the data from this survey is available and you may draw your own conclusions, but I have taken the liberty to draw a few conclusions myself.
  • For the enterprise client, it is really a two horse race with Windows and Linux.  Of the companies represented, 57% were running greater than 50% Windows clients and 46.6% were running greater than 50% Linux clients.
  • There is extremely high confidence in using Linux for mission-critical applications (76%).
  • 66.1% of the companies responded that Linux was used for client desktops.  Many of these are configured as thin clients.
  • While Adobe Photoshop came in as the top Windows application that should be ported to Linux (47.5%), the majority (61.8%) indicated that their "best" plan was to use equivalent Linux applications where possible.
  • Eclipse wins (32.7%) as the top developer environment, although it was interesting to see that Microsoft Visual Studio pulled 9.9% indicating that many applications are developed on Windows and ported to Linux.  The strength of Eclipse is that it can be used on Windows or Linux.
  • The top "potential issues" in migrating to Linux is for the support of new devices.  In order, missing device driver support was #1, followed by the quality of peripheral support, application support, and the ability to sync with mobile devices.
For enterprise Linux deployments, all the critical applications are available on Linux platforms with the exception of some internally developed applications and some applications specific to business needs.  The critical applications were no surprise and turned out to be:
  1. Email - 62%
  2. Browsers/plugins - 48.6%
  3. Office productivity tools - 46.8%
  4. Applications specific to your business - 40.6%
  5. Database applications - 35.9%
  6. Internally developed applications - 30.1%
  7. Secure remote access - 30.0%
For the Linux kernel community and Linux desktop community, the recipients requested that the following items be top priority:
  • Open source drivers for proprietary hardware - 62.7%
  • Wireless - 47.2%
  • Linux desktop standards (cross-distro) - 42.5%
The areas that have gone down significantly in the past two years in their "criticality" include printing (which used to always be at the top), audio/multimedia, fonts and document fidelity, and application packaging.   The Linux Desktop community has done some incredible work in these areas.

I won't use this entry to chronicle all the advancements in desktop distributions, pre-installed desktop offerings, application availability, application distribution capabilities, and mobile desktop advances this year.  I will talk about these in another posting.  However, the data from this survey clearly indicates that there is surging interest in desktop Linux.   This was demonstrated by the huge response to the survey.

The survey results are freely available to anyone that wants to use or analyze them.  Feel free to feed your closet urges to be an analyst of these survey results.  We are all interested in being enlightened by differing opinions and perspectives.

Long live freedom!

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