Analysts warn Linux PCs not ready for mainstream use


2 Apr 2004

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Enterprises should not take the Novell and HP plans to ship desktop and notebook PCs with Novel’s Linux technology as a signal that Linux is ready for broad, horizontal desktop deployment, tech analyst firm Gartner warns. Adoption by the mainstream, it says, will be hampered by high migration costs, compatibility issues and inability to handle legacy applications in most businesses.

Last week HP and Novell jointly announced that HP will begin shipping desktop PCs and notebooks with Novell’s SUSE Linux Professional 9.1 operating systems. While systems will appear first in North America, market timing and pricing were not disclosed.

However, Gartner argues that such product will not be initially suitable for broad mainstream use by knowledge workers in enterprise-wide deployments. “Having bought Ximian and SUSE, Novell is well-positioned to lead Linux’s movement to the desktop, but an overly broad interpretation of Novell’s strategy may cause inflated expectations of Linux desktop adoption in the coming year. Even if Novell succeeds with its real intentions, it may still be faulted for failing to penetrate the broader group of desktops that it seemed to be targeting,” Gartner said in a statement on the subject.

Gartner also argues that HP’s decision to make pre-configured Linux PCs available first in North America also raises concerns because client-side Linux adoption is likely to be higher in virtually every other region.

Gartner believes several issues are driving this decision. HP wants to assume more of a lead in driving commercial adoption of Linux on the desktop and have an end-to-end strategy. Meanwhile, Novell wants to show itself as an early leader on the desktop, and getting a major hardware player to make such an announcement strengthens its position.

“Enterprises should not take the Novell/HP announcements as a signal that Linux is ready for broad, horizontal desktop deployment. Gartner believes that Linux can be adopted now by mainstream enterprises for users performing specific, limited tasks, but that adoption for general use by knowledge workers will continue to be hampered by high migration costs, the inability to run the vast number of legacy Win32 applications installed in most enterprises, and ongoing compatibility issues inherent in exchanging data between applications such as Microsoft Office and open-source alternatives such as StarOffice,” the technology analyst firm stated.

By John Kennedy