Linux continues desktop march

The good news for Linux as an operating system for the desktop--as opposed to the server--is that it is set to become No. 2 after Windows in the next year or so. The bad news is that its growth does not look to be as explosive as some advocates might have hoped. The predictions come from IDC and they reflect the fact that in the last few months Linux on the desktop has become a reality. It is now possible, for example, to buy a Linux-based PC (running LindowsOS) from Evesham. In the United States, Wal-Mart sells machines based on Lindows, Mandrake Linux and others. But though Linux may have its foot in the door, taking the next step to becoming a mainstream success is proving a more difficult proposition.

What distinguishes Linux among its operating-system competitors is the way it is distributed: under its open-source license, Linux can be modified and redistributed, as long as the modifications are made freely available to the developer community. Since the basic code is freely available, Linux can be distributed at rock-bottom prices or at no charge, but the license also makes it more difficult for distributors to charge premium prices for proprietary technology.

Linux has been going strong in the server market since the dot-com boom, and has now picked up high-profile backers such as HP and IBM. A Butler Group study in October even predicted that Linux was likely to become the dominant server operating system by 2009, based on its success at eroding the Unix market.

But on the desktop, where good technology alone has not been known to prove popular, growth has remained slow. IDC says that Linux's share of paid shipments of the worldwide client operating-system market rose from 1.5 percent in 2000 to 1.7 in 2001, while Microsoft Windows grew from 92 to 94 percent in the same period. While this does not include the large numbers of free downloads common in the Linux world, IDC says it is significant.

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News source: ZDNet

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