Desktop Linux benefits are myths, says Gartner

Gartner this week cautioned Australian IT managers contemplating Linux desktops, dispelling several 'supposed' advantages of open source workstations.

Robin Simpson, Gartner research director, software and business management, told attendees at the Open Source Revealed conference in Sydney that desktop Linux was not a panacea.

He said Gartner projected Linux would have a desktop market penetration of 1.1 per cent in the Asia Pacific region by 2006, and 5 per cent at best.

"Few Australian enterprises today have a standard operating environment," he said. "Linux will have a place in a lot of organisations, but the costs of migration will decide Linux on the desktop."

Simpson said the myth that Linux was free was inappropriate for business.

"The supported versions aren't. If you want Red Hat support, you're going to have to pay for it," he said.

Another myth was that Linux freed users from forced upgrades, such as new versions of operating systems and office applications.

"ISVs will target newer releases of Linux for [their] new software," he said.

Responding to the claims, Linux Australia president Pia Smith said while desktop Linux wasn't "completely adequate at the moment", no one had ever tried to sell Linux as "free".

"With Linux, you're free to do a lot more with your software," she said.

"In migrating to Linux, you don't have to upgrade your hardware, and you're not forced to upgrade due to licensing.

"Microsoft forces you to upgrade. Once you have a new version of Office, it's hard to maintain [a network of] computers running older versions," she said.

"The thing about Linux is it keeps that compatibility between versions."

Simpson said that, while desktop Linux users can use a range of free applications, the open source community has yet to provide alternatives to enterprise applications.

"There are no open source CRM or ERP applications. Existing vendors have ported their applications to Linux, so there's no great change there," he said.

Migration costs were often not considered in possible moves to desktop Linux from Windows, especially in application development, Simpson said.

IT managers should base any desktop Linux decision on the types of users in their business, application requirements and a cost-benefit analysis, he said.

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