Vendor Highlight

Mobile Broadband Boost

As the demand for a smooth and seamless integration of Wi-Fi access becomes increasingly important part for the mobile broadband service, Ericsson has announced its 3GPP compliant Wi-Fi network access, control and management solutions.

Read more ...

Expert Talk

Securing Utilities Infrastructure

As a highly critical sector, the oil and gas infrastructure should be one of the most secure, both physically and digitally. This is not the case.

Read more ...

 

When most people hear the word Linux they instantly think of sandal wearing university types with a pocket full of ball point pens, punching code into a green screen terminal from the early 1970s. I mention the word to my immediate family, I get a response like “isn’t it a free operating system full of viruses”?

tux

 

Such is the general misconception of the Linux OS. Those of us who work in the IT industry will appreciate that as far server based applications, web hosting and security appliances are concerned, Linux is the dominant force behind the Internet. But what about the desktop market? Why is there such a poor perception behind Linux as a replacement desktop OS? Despite substantial development in the graphical appearance ease of use and flexibility, only 1.53% of 2.2 billion Internet users use Linux as a desktop.  

 

SECURITY

There is a genuine misconception that Linux desktop for enterprise is unsuitable due to the open source code it uses containing back doors for hackers,  is difficult to manage and lock down for a large group of users. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. Most firms today spend thousands of dollars on antivirus and security subscriptions not only at the desktop layer but also on the mail gateway and web proxy, protecting their users from external attacks. The Linux desktop is not immune to such behaviour, but likelihood of finding a distribution specific virus which can take control of your PC and affect the rest of your network is extremely rare. Managing user security profiles is also just as easy as Windows platforms.


CERTIFIED HARDWARE

The biggest challenge desktop Linux faces is the lukewarm adoption by hardware vendors to certify Linux distributions on consumer hardware. With Microsoft Windows pre installed on approximately 90% of the global Internet connected computers, and the OS licence built into the cost of their PC or notebook, it is no surprise that Linux desktop adoption rates are so low. From a hardware vendor perspective, there is no financial incentive to certify a entire product line for Linux, in fact it becomes a financial burden to do so.

When a performance affecting bug is discovered with Windows, often a BIOS or driver update from the vendor will correct the issue on the affected hardware. For Linux users, they must wait on the generosity of the development community to write patch or workaround in the Kernel to accommodate the affected hardware, since there will be no support from the big name vendors. As a result, the very latest high performance hardware will encounter more hardware compatibility errors running desktop editions of Linux than older hardware platforms which have already benefited from having the bugs ironed out. This creates a perception that Linux is unreliable amongst the general population.

THE NETBOOK GENERATION

The Intel Atom processor was the biggest shake up to the mobile computing arena this decade, coupled with a small form factor screen and keyboard the unit pushed mobile computing cost downward, and saw runaway success for Asus with its Eee-PC products. For the first time, budget users could select either certified netbook Linux editions or pay extra for the Windows XP version. This exposed a great number of people to Linux which otherwise would have remained oblivious to the fact that their was an alternative to the WinTel monopoly. However, Microsoft fought back by heavily discounting the OS licence for Netbook OEM vendors to keep the Linux distributions off the desktop.

THE FUTURE

While the Linux desktop users will remain a minority for some time to come, help is on the horizon. The Android OS which is ultimately another Linux distribution, is making considerable impact in the mobile space, with the support of search engine giant Google behind it. My prediction for the future will be Android versions for desktops and notebooks will start appearing. This OS will be more in line of Google’s Chromium OS vision of a web connected OS  but will still let users run locally installed application should they choose. The experience will couple tightly with the native Android mobile OS, with user content and settings being transparently passed between users devices, which will include your car. Google’s business model, unlike Microsoft, doesn’t care about revenue from the underlying OS or applications. It is all about content and advertising, and it is this strategy that will be keeping executives from Microsoft awake at night.  

CONCLUSION

Today the Linux desktop is confined to the early adopters and experimenters, being open source and free, there is no financial motivation for hardware vendors to extend support for the platform, which is the reason that wild speculation about its suitability as a desktop replacement exists. To win the hearts and minds of the wider general public will require a strong financial motivator and the way the future is looking, this will probably be Google.

 By Craig Sutherland   

You have no rights to post comments