Open Source

Will Linux ever be a popular desktop product?

Linux, although it's highly touted as a more secure and reliable operating system, simply won't work in my environment. I suppose I could consider Linux for my servers, but not for my desktops. In fact, I've seen it reported that Linux is running on eight of the ten most reliable Web hosting servers. But for desktop systems, Linux is almost nowhere to be seen, at least not in my industry. In my case, the main reason is the fact that my primary application, AutoCAD (and various Autodesk products), just isn't Linux compatible. And from what I've heard, Autodesk has no intention of creating a Linux compatible product, at least not in the near future. I've never upgraded software simply for the sake of upgrading, especially my operating systems, and my recent upgrade to Windows Vista was no exception. It was quite challenging, to say the least, but the decision to upgrade was driven by the applications we use. (Perhaps I should have upgraded to Windows XP instead of standing pat on Windows 2000 Professional, but that's water under the bridge.) I would like to have had a Linux option, but I just didn't. I often wonder if some of these application developers will ever make their primary products available in a Linux version. Linux is obviously not on Autodesk's radar screen, nor is it an option with any of the other engineering design applications we use. What about Adobe? And what about financial and bookkeeping applications? I simply don't see these being widely offered in the Linux flavor? I did, however, recently see an article about how Adobe was testing the Linux waters, but their flagship products are still available in only the Windows or Mac versions. And what about peripherals — scanners, plotters, and printers? Are they as widely compatible with Linux as they are with Windows? Since Linux has never been a viable option for me, I've never even ventured that far into the consideration process. It seems to me that it's not the user keeping Linux from breaking into the desktop market, but rather the application developers. Or is it that the application developers are merely offering what their customers want, not producing what they will not buy? A computer and operating system, in and of itself, is useless; it's the applications that drive the markets. And it's the application requirements that force the user to select Windows over Linux. I've been reading for years about how Linux will be the operating system of the future, just wait till next year, or just give it a chance. I remember back in 1999 when Red Hat, one of the primary providers of Linux at the time, went public with a huge splash. I actually thought Linux was gearing up to make inroads into the desktop market, and I even considered buying some shares from their initial public offering. I remember how the price of Red Hat shares went from the $40 range to well over $100 per share in no time at all. I suppose it was just the initial excitement and exuberance that drove the popularity of Red Hat shares in those early days, because it wasn't long before the price plummeted to the single digit range. In two short years, a share of Red Hat, once valued at $150, was trading at just over $3 (an exponentially bigger loss than the overall market in general). Even today, after all the investment dust has settled, a share of Red Hat is valued at a mere $20 — and with earnings that suggest it's still overvalued by a factor of three times or more. (A great investment if you bought-in at $3, but a lousy one if you bought-into the early expectations.) As it concerns the desktop end user, until the application developers embrace Linux, I believe it's destined to remain a favorite of only a small percentage of users, most (if not all) of whom, might be described as computer enthusiasts of some sort – those who like to tinker and experiment with new and different technologies, and those who have the savvy to go it alone, so to speak. And I just don't see that changing in the foreseeable future.

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