Linux growing, limited by Microsoft

By   |  August 23, 2005

The Linux operating system, when combined with available personal productivity software, packaged application software, and development tools, has reached a level of capability that arguably positions it to be an acceptable alternative client operating environment (COE) solution for many users of personal computers, says South African research house BMI-TechKnowledge.

Making a leap from being an acceptable alternative to capturing the role of a mainstream solution is the chasm that Linux must cross today. BMI-t sees opportunities for Linux to make inroads in the COE market in the following ways:
Consumers primarily needing access to the Web, email, and relatively straightforward personal productivity needs could be well served by Linux as a COE today. Those needing specific packaged applications currently not available on Linux may well find application support to be an insurmountable obstacle for the time being.

Developers creating Unix-oriented, Linux-oriented, or platform-neutral application software have been using Linux as a client operating environment for quite some time. Developers of Windows software, on the other hand, are unlikely to use Linux as their development platform. The trend toward greater platform independence for applications may favour Linux COEs.
Organisations today can supply task-oriented or \”transactional\” workers with a system running Linux as the underlying client operating environment for either client/server applications or Web-centric applications.

Knowledge workers, on the other hand, are likely to remain tied to Windows centric packaged application software, personal productivity software, and development tools over the long term. Organisations will find that these users will be among the last to be suitable for movement to Linux. Organisations may be wise to wait for this software to become available on Linux before rushing into an organization wide Linux deployment.

Shipments of Linux as a client operating environment have been growing rapidly since novice-ready commercial versions of this software were introduced in the late 90s. However, the Linux market share is increasing at a slower rate due to the overwhelming position held by Microsoft’s pervasively deployed COE products and IT Services.

The IT services around GNU/Linux, open source software and free software is one of the least researched markets. Much attention has been given to shipments of servers running Linux and on a small number of migration deals from UNIX to Linux, but the services designed to support and operate these systems have received little scrutiny.

The services ecosystem that surrounds open source and free software is greater than pure migration services. However, it remains a relatively small market when compared to the service opportunities offered by the proprietary platforms. BMI-t estimates that the size of the related services market in was R204 million in 2004 and expects this to reach R 1 162 million by 2009. In other words, the market for services around GNU/Linux, open source software and free software is growing fast but will maintain a rather limited size, in the foreseeable future, when measured against the overall South African IT services expenditure.

Specialist service providers that have emerged to meet the markets demands for and free software that are driving the market. They are innovative, pro-active, and have a strong understanding of both free software tools and the nuances of the community.

Looking to the future, systems integrators on the whole remain more cautious towards open source, although a number of players have started building offerings. Large system integrators will play a role in the success of open source as they have strong relationships with their large enterprise clients, and in order to satisfy and maintain demands of their customers, they are aggressively exploring options.

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