Enterprise Linux Log

Jun 13 2007   1:16PM GMT

Nat Friedman: Choose Vista + ignore Linux desktops = face shareholders’ wrath


“If you don’t evaluate Linux desktops, you may be liable to your shareholders because you’re spending an enormous amount of money to upgrade to Vista without a demonstrable ROI,” said open source developer turned Novell exec Nat Friedman during our recent conversation.

“You’ll spend $30 million to upgrade to Vista, and you’ll have exactly the same functionality and same level of security challenges we had before. Instead, you could spend less money and not have to replace hardware by going with a Linux desktop, along with having fewer security challenges, built-in sandboxing for your applications, inclusion of an office suite…and all at a tenth of the licensing cost of Microsoft. Oh, and there’s better manageability.”

During our talk, Friedman addressed his comments particularly to IT managers who run Microsoft-only desktop shops. Even though Friedman is a long-time Linux desktop evangelist and biased, I think he made some good points, and I’ll share them in this post. Friedman is Novell CTO/Strategy Officer for open source and was co-creator of the Novell-acquired Ximian desktop applications for Linux and Unix.

The introduction of Vista sets the stage for exploring other options, giving IT managers — even those whose bosses are phobic about running anything other than Microsoft desktops — a good reason to do evaluations, he said.

“Vista just came out, and it’s very expensive, requires you to refresh your hardware, includes user interface changes that require you to retrain your users, requires you to retool your backend systems. It also brings expensive transition costs. I can’t think of a reason not to, at the very least, do an evaluation of Linux desktops.”

IT managers will lose nothing from starting a pilot program for Linux desktops at this stage. “If it doesn’t work for them, so be it.” Friedman is sure, however, that Linux desktops will probably work for part of most organizations. Besides the benefits offered by using Linux desktops, he says, there’s another plus.

“Just think, if you deploy Linux desktops in part of your organization, you’re going to have more leverage in your next pricing discussion with Microsoft. You can say, ‘We have 200 Linux desktops that work great and cost less, and we’re thinking about going to 2,000. You need to lower the price.'”

The release of Vista is not the only reason why this will be a good year for deployments to increase. For one thing, Friedman said, there are no technological barriers, because the Linux desktop software is sufficiently usable and interoperable. For another…

“More people leaning towards a Web-based application model — like Salesforce.com and Google — and that will lead to them being less dependent upon Microsoft for running applications.”

Linux desktop adoption is steadily increasing worldwide, but people don’t recognize this fact because there hasn’t been a big adoption surge, Friedman said.

As the moral of Aesop’s tortoise and hare fable goes: Slow and steady wins the race.

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