Barney's Blog

Blog archive

Mailbag: Would You Use Linux?

Last week, after word came out that IBM was working to build Linux-only PCs, Doug asked readers whether they'd find room for these things in their own shops. Here are some of your responses:

You asked, why would you use Linux in your shop? Cost. It has crossed my mind for the purpose of thin-clients doing basically nothing but booting into Linux and loading RDC software to connect to a Windows Terminal Server. No need to pay for big, beefy machines and Windows client licenses if the employee is mostly remote, but needs a workstation when they come to the office, and would use their remote desktop anyway because that is where all their files are and it is configured to their liking.

If the environment I am in changes, yes. Vista is already banned from the network. We run Solaris, Linux, 2000, XP and 2003 server with some 2000 servers still around, and at least one Mac OS X. A Linux desktop (if we can buy it from Dell as it is a state requirement all hardware must be bought from Dell) yes, but no Notes. It would need to conform to the Oracle, Outlook, Office standard. There were several Red Hat Linux desktops in use fairly recently. I need to run a program that is only written for Windows, but I can connect to another machine or virtualize it to get around that. When I need to connect from home, I use OS X and VPN in with a remote client.

Not today. And not from IBM. I was an IT professional before the IBM PC was released. I know the stories. IBM would love not to have to sell Windows to its loyal customers who want personal workstations for their non-technical workforce, but that will not happen until someone invests some serious money to position Linux for the non-technical desktop. Make Linux truly plug-n-play (as Windows is on most any OEM system) and IBM might stand a chance, but the costs far exceed the return IBM is ever going to get to provide its customers with commodity desktops. Unlike most Linux vendors, IBM has the resources to do this but they just don't have the stomach for it.

Could I be wrong? Sure, I could! Would I switch to Linux? Sure, if I was convinced that it would meet my needs better than Windows -- but that selling job is up to IBM and its partners. They talk a good story but I doubt they will come through.

There are too many wild Linux horses in the race to pick one of the winners. The only common Linux direction is "anything but Microsoft or Sun." Anarchy may work to bring down the "ruling class," but it doesn't work when you need to assemble a system to bring order to the Linux chaos. It will take an IBM or HP or someone else to bring the Linux chaos to an end and give it a directon and a future. I fear the disarray that stalled Unix is awaiting Linux.

You may have the kid down the street mow your lawn rather than a landscaping company to save a few bucks, but when you make a business investment, you invest based on a clearly defined investment strategy with established history, focused strategy direction and an ultimate goal. If you want to gamble, there is always horse racing or today's Linux.


As for IBM's push into cloud computing, one reader thinks it's a major move -- and we should take note:

Having been a customer of IBM for many years before PCs, I wouldn't count them out by any means. True, they do err (as does Microsoft), but they should be taken seriously.

And Peter shares his thoughts about Zimbra's open source alternative to Outlook:

One comment about Zimbra (we're actively considering it as a hosted e-mail server). The Web client doesn't support secure e-mail (digitally signed, encrypted, etc.), and I can't see anything on their Web site about Zimbra Desktop supporting this either. If this is the case, I think a lot of corporate customers will stick with Outlook (I know we will). At least for the time being.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 11, 2008