Corporate adoption of Linux desktops is hindered by the inability to run Windows applications, the difficulty of installing and managing peripheral devices and the challenge of making users feel comfortable with the open-source operating system, a survey shows.
With desktop Linux remaining an anomaly in businesses, the Open Source Development Lab decided to identify technical and social barriers to its adoption. The number one inhibitor, according to an online survey in October that received 3,300 responses, was the lack of support for new and existing non-open source desktop applications and utilities.
The latter included such technologies as virtual private network clients, while examples of desired applications included Adobe Systems' Photoshop and PageMaker, as well as Autodesk's AutoCAD and Intuit's Quicken financial software.
"(In addition), Linux desktop must be able to fully run Windows applications easily and with full functionality," the OSDL report said, noting that installation would have to be as easy as loading software onto a PC or Mac.
On hardware support, respondents said there was a need to simplify the process for installing and managing peripherals. Also listed as necessities were USB support and easier networked printing. Devices that respondents believed had to be supported included personal digital assistants and personal storage devices.
Making end-users comfortable with the Linux interface was also listed as a necessity for boosting adoption, with some respondents suggesting that Linux should become more "Mac-like" in its installation and deployment process, the OSDL said.
E-mail and messaging applications were listed as the most critical to Linux desktop deployments. The remaining top five, in order, were office productivity tools, such as text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and databases; browsers, database applications, and developer tools.
"E-mail truly is the killer app, regardless of platform; that without a quality e-mail application, Linux on the desktop is not feasible," the report said.
The top five "must-be-supported" browser applications and plug-ins were Macromedia Flash and Shockwave, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Apple Quicktime, and Open Office.
"Ultimately, desktop Linux must provide support for all Web content, multimedia or otherwise," the OSDL said.
Of the top two reasons for deploying Linux on the desktop, employees requesting Linux was listed as number one, followed by the need to match competitors that have successfully deployed Linux.
The OSDL said it found the two top results "intriguing in that conventional wisdom suggests that Linux is initially adopted as a developer tool (user demand), but is generally not viewed as a competitive issue."
"We feel that this represents a unique cultural shift within organizations to stay aggressive in analyzing and deploying open-source software and to not be left behind," the OSDL said.
Rounding out the top five reasons for using desk Linux were total cost of ownership, reducing license costs, and security.
The OSDL, which employs Linux creator Linus Torvalds, is a non-profit group dedicated to accelerating use of the OS in businesses. Founding members include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Computer Associates, and NEC.