Dell and Lenovo have announced that they will soon launch PCs in Europe with the open-source operating system Linux pre-installed. Dell already offers Linux machines in the US, and says its appearance in the UK is a response to rising demand as logged through its online ordering system. According to Dell, up to 30,000 buyers have already asked for pre-installed Linux.
This may reflect a recent upturn in interest, but open-source enthusiasts say it shows a demand that already existed, which just didnt show up until big PC suppliers started raising it as an option. Linux is already widely used at the server level, and has a growing number of desktop users enthused by its capabilities as well as cost.
Better the devil you know
Despite this movement at the margins away from the dominant Windows standard, few even among its enthusiasts are expecting a sudden switchover of businesses to Linux, because of:
But the standardisation and easy integration of software, achieved by buying it all from Microsoft, becomes less of an advantage as common programs become more mature, and as Microsoft is forced to release code so that others can design compatible alternatives. While Dell says it is responding to a rise in demand, its offer of Linux with technical support is expected to fuel that demand, by removing the perceived risk of jumping from Windows.
A more balanced battle ahead
With more sales, Linux developers will be able to step up their investment in new applications and user-friendliness: so by this time next year, say some Lino-philes, the open system could be viable in the mass market as an alternative to Microsofts previously closed book. Compared with Windows, Linux can already offer:
Watch the new uptake
New dawns for Linux have been proclaimed before, only for Microsoft to hit back with Windows updates that close perceived technical gaps. The Redmond-based giant claims to have done so again with the launch of Windows Vista earlier this year. But the greater difficulty of migrating to this from Windows previous incarnations may have opened users minds to a change of operating system when they give up their current XP. And big government departments around the world have been especially keen adopters of Linux, something to keep in mind if you plan to do business with them.
The bottom line: if your CTO or other tech-savvy colleagues urge you to back Linux as the next step to cost-effective IT, ask for some detailed ROI calculations as well as a demonstration of how your present programs would work on the new system. But look out for feedback from the growing number wholl now be changing systems as a result of the PC makers actions, and compare it with those who upgrade to Vista. The moment when it makes financial sense to switch has probably not arrived yet, but could be getting close.
What do you think?
Have you made the switch to Linux? Did it bring financial results? Or are we underestimating the risks?
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