Why the Linux desktop doesn't shine in business: A perspective

Jack Wallen has drawn a fairly simple conclusion as to why Linux isn't making any headway on the business desktop front. Read on and sound off whether you agree or disagree.

I've been keeping track lately of what it is I do most during a full day of remote support. The three top things I deal with are:

  • Quickbooks
  • Outlook
  • Backups

The reason I've been keeping track of this lately is simply because I want to know why Linux hasn't found its way to the desktop more than it has. It makes perfect sense for this open source operating platform to be used in businesses. Why?

  • It's free
  • It's free from viruses
  • It's stable
  • It's secure

That short list above should be enough to bring the business clients packing away from Microsoft Windows. Imagine a world where business desktops weren't constantly having to be stroked, burped, and inoculated like the babies they currently are. But alas, it does not. Oh sure, I find Linux being used on many a varied server, but the desktop seems to still be the primary area where Linux is shunned. To find the answer to this, I strongly believe we must head back to my list of most dealt with aspects of support. But even more specifically, we must take on two of those:

  • QuickBooks
  • Outlook
These are two of the single most often used pieces of mission critical desktop software in business today. With these two pieces of software, businesses can:
  • Communicate
  • Schedule
  • Organize
  • Manage finances

The above seem to be the most important duties of the business end-user. Granted, not everyone manages finances, but there is no doubting the importance of that task.

Now, how does the Linux desktop fit into this? You might be surprised when I answer — not well. Why? Let's break these two pieces of software down, with regards to Linux.


The closest thing to Outlook Linux has is Evolution. Evolution isn't a bad piece of software. It's not great, but it isn't horrible. That doesn't cut it. But regardless of how good or bad the software itself is, it simply doesn't work with Exchange. Unfortunately, Exchange isn't going away and if a Linux groupware client wants to make any headway in the world of Business it must integrate with Exchange — and not with the help of third-party software or serious text-file configuration edits. Linux desperately needs an Outlook-like piece of software that can be placed on a Windows network and be easily configured to work with Exchange. Until that happens, Linux has no chance of working as a desktop client in the world of business.

Some of you might be thinking OWA. Sure, end-users can fire up the web-based OWA Outlook, but most don't want that. Most end-users want a standard client tool that works just like the one being used in the cubicle nearest them.

Evolution could be that client. What would it take? Probably a fork and a lot of work; but it could happen.


I deal with QuickBooks a lot. It shocks me I don't have gray hair because of that simple fact. If you've used the software enough, you know this one thing:

When QuickBooks works, it's great; but when QuickBooks doesn't work, it's a nightmare.

The closest thing to QuickBooks that Linux has is GnuCash — and that's not really a close competitor. Why? One major reason:

GnuCash is a single-user software.

If GnuCash is EVER going to be taken seriously in the world of business, it must take a QuickBooks approach and become a multi-user piece of software. Should that happen, GnuCash could make some serious inroads to the business desktop. Until then, it will be relegated to personal use.

Make this happen

I am not a developer. I only serve as a mouthpiece to the open source community, thanks to TechRepublic. But I do know a lot of the open source community does read this (and other TechRepublic) blogs. I have the utmost respect for open source developers. They work from passion and heart — like few other developers can claim. And I would call to action those developers who long to see the Linux platform make serious headway on the business desktop. If you are serious about this idea, then give serious thought to what I've mentioned here. With a solid Outlook-like client (one that could seamlessly and easily communicate to Exchange) and a multi-user accounting solution (along the lines of QuickBooks) Linux could easily start making serious gains on the business desktop. Until then, however, Linux will be relegated to server rooms and developers.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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