LinuxWorld expo eyes the desktop

As the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo kicks off in San Francisco this week, new ideas about desktop Linux use are one focus of the event.

Just three years ago, few information technology professionals were considering the use of Linux on the desktop at their companies. But today, as Linux moves into more corporate plans and systems, desktop Linux and the widespread use of the operating system isn't as far-fetched. As the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo kicks off in San Francisco this week, new ideas about desktop Linux use are one focus of the event. Advocates are showcasing recent Linux deployment wins over Microsoft Windows in the city of Munich and elsewhere. "There's a lot of examples where it's becoming more widespread," says Warwick Davies, a group vice president of IDG World Expo, which hosts the annual show. Leaning Toward Linux Dan Kusnetsky, an IDC analyst who has just co-authored a report on the subject, sees several ways Linux can make inroads into the desktop market. Consumers interested in moving away from the Windows operating system could come to see Linux as a viable alternative--if it can support their need for internet access, email, and access to web-based applications, he says. And he believes it could gain popularity among users hoping for a more secure alternative to Windows. Developers of platform-neutral software such as Java-based applications and web services might also come to favor Linux over Windows — if it lets them create those applications using appropriate tools and if the price is right, Kuznetsky adds. He also noted that the needs of many workers can be met with any operating system that provides common applications such as a web browser, a Java virtual machine, and reliable email agent. Organisations could supply those workers with a system running Linux as the underlying client operating environment for either client/server applications or web-centric applications, he says. Despite those possibilities, knowledge workers are likely to remain tied to Windows-centric packaged applications, personal productivity software and development tools, and will be the last to move to Linux, according to Kusnetsky. Renewed Interest IDC predicts Linux will grow from a 2.7% market share, with 3.4 million paid licence shipments in 2002, to a 6% share with more than 10 million shipments in 2007, he says. Researchers also report an increase in Linux server sales. "The whole industry is starting to wake up to the possibility of Linux on the desktop," says Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata. "Folks like Sun and Hewlett-Packard are enthusiastic about it. But even companies like IBM that have historically said it's a server phenomenon have seen the genuine interest not only in Asia but in large European and US companies and are starting to wake up to it," he says. "But it's still in its early days. To say Windows on [the] desktop is dominant is even too soft of a statement." Even so, this year's LinuxWorld is expected to generate a lot of interest among Linux users, advocates, and vendors. More than 190 exhibitors are signed up for the show at the Moscone Center, up from about 135 last year, Davies says. Major vendors, including IBM, HP, Novell and its SUSE Linux division, Red Hat, Intel, Computer Associates, Dell, and Oracle will be on the show floor displaying the latest Linux products and offering implementation strategies. Davies says increased attention on the security of Linux is a given, as well as a look at bringing Linux into corporate environments without forcing companies to scrap existing systems. Matthew Szulik, chairman and CEO of Linux vendor Red Hat is presenting the opening keynote speech on "Freedom of Choice," which is one of the company's ongoing mantras. Szulik is being joined by a late addition, customer Chris Hjelm, chief technology officer at online travel vendor Orbitz, who will talk about the company's migration to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

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