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Opinion: Desktop Linux is ready for the mainstream

By Galen Gruman
March 5, 2009 12:00 PM ET

InfoWorld - It's been a decade since Linux proponents first argued their OS was ready for mainstream adoption. Yet for all intents and purposes, Linux remains nonexistent on "regular" people's desks. Sure, developers and other tech experts use Linux, but that's about it.

So when my colleague Neil McAllister, author of InfoWorld's Fatal Exception blog, made the case for desktop Linux, I snorted, "Give me a break! Desktop Linux is nowhere." He challenged me to try it myself. He had a point: It had been a decade since I fired up any desktop Linux distro. So I accepted his challenge.

[View the desktop Linux slideshow. | See who wins in InfoWorld's OS shoot-out. | The InfoWorld Test Center compares Microsoft Office alternatives for Linux.]

My verdict: Desktop Linux is a great choice for many regular Joes with basic computer needs. And not just on netbooks.

In fact, I found that it makes a lot of sense to standardize office workers on desktop Linux. I now understand why governments in Asia and Europe say they want to get off the Microsoft train and shift to Linux. I thought these were empty threats meant to get better licensing deals or to blunt some of Microsoft's monopolistic power, but as it turns out, desktop Linux is a worthwhile option for both public organizations and private companies. Those who standardize on Linux would save serious money on the new equipment needed for Vista or Windows 7, not to mention OS and Office upgrades as well. Your business could, too.

Moreover, Linux-based shops would require significantly less training than they would to teach staff Vista or Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007.

Let's face reality: Most people use just Microsoft Office, e-mail, and the Web at work. For that, you don't need an expensive, resource-hogging suite like Office or a piggy operating system like Windows Vista or Windows 7. You don't even need my favorite OS, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Plus, adopting Linux will solve some of IT's headaches when it comes to PC management.

Let me explain.

An easier transition from XP than going to VistaI set up a virtual machine on my Mac and loaded Ubuntu 8.1. (Why Ubuntu? Reviewers single it out as the best desktop Linux. Many folks like Novell's Suse as well. And there are other Linux choices.) It booted like a real OS, with the familiar GUI of Windows XP and its predecessors and of the Mac OS: icons for disks and folders, a standard menu structure, and built-in support for common hardware such as networks, printers, and DVD burners.

Reprinted with permission from InfoWorld. Story copyright 2012 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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