Internet services and social networking tools, such as Google Apps or Facebook, give users consistent interfaces and navigation regardless of how they are accessed.
The Web 2.0 generation of Internet and corporate end users are willing participants in that model, and often prefer applications that do not live on their desktops.
"One thing we found with OpenOffice and Thunderbird was that a lot of consumers were not comfortable with them," says David Lui, founder of the gOS project, a Linux operating system that powers the gPC computers. The gPC relies on online applications. "By using Google and other services we found a lot more positive feedback," Lui says.
Companies like Zonbu are offering the entire client as a service.
"We are trying to set the system as a service," says Gregoire Gentil, CEO of Zonbu. "[It is] a fully [remote] managed computer with full backup, synchronization with the cloud, and ready to run."
Paul Kim, director of marketing for Everex, says one reason he is optimistic about open source products is that they get returned 15 to 20 percent less often than Vista-based machines. XP-based machines, however, come back less than both, he notes.
Despite the challenges, some feel Linux machines are poised to take off like never before.
Timothy Chen, director of business development and strategic partnerships for Via Technologies, which manufactures chipsets and integrated circuits, told Linux Foundation Summit attendees that he has a bet with a friend that if Linux desktops do not have 10 percent market share in the next five years he will run naked through the streets of Munich, Germany.
Chen also announced that Via would begin an open source initiative aimed at exposing its drivers to open source developers.
Saugatuck's Guptill says he sees accelerating awareness and acceptance of open source software development among device manufacturers beyond PCs and servers. In addition, he notices the same trend among IT departments outside the data center.