Red Hat chief: Linux will take desktop market share from MS

The penguin wants to waddle onto your desktop. The head of Red Hat Linux claims there's a future for open-source on the desktop -- and his company is going for it. He also downplayed a recent IDC study, co-sponsored by Microsoft, that gave the TCO edge to Windows.

BOSTON -- Though Linux still faces significant challenges from its competitors, Red Hat Inc.'s top executive this week outlined the strides that open-source has made and discussed where it fits relative to other operating system technologies.

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  • At the Enterprise Linux Forum Conference & Expo on Tuesday, Matthew J. Szulik, chairman and chief executive officer at Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, talked up the expansion of Linux from academia to commercial acceptance in global enterprises, its scalability on devices ranging from handhelds to mainframe computers, and its appearance in distributed environments and blade servers.

    "Szulik is encouraging people that critical computing and Linux belong in the same paragraph, if not the same sentence," said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.

    Szulik said that the challenge Linux continues to face is on the desktop and with the file format issues of compatibility and conversion with Microsoft's Windows. In the past, the desktop was never even part of a conversation when organizations were considering a move to Linux. "Now it comes up in every discussion," Szulik said.

    Szulik took a swipe at the dominant desktop competitor when addressing Red Hat's strategy to win over clients, He said that the company will focus on a "sweet spot where 10% to 15% of the market does not want to be extorted."

    To that end, Red Hat has focused on four things: its recently released Mozilla browser, the evolution of OpenOffice, achieving flexibility in the code base, and driving down the cost of software management.

    Szulik disregarded a recent study, co-sponsored by Microsoft and International Data Corp., that said Windows offered a better total cost of ownership than Linux in four out of five server workloads. "All that information is good because it lets you make a choice," he said. "But when you have such disparate environments, it's hard to make a comparison."

    Furthermore, the data in the survey was collected one year ago. A lot has changed since then, Szulik said.

    Kusnetzky, who co-authored the study, said that IDC surveyed more than 100 large and medium-sized North American organizations. The comparison took into account not just the hardware and software costs, but also staffing, training, electricity and floor space.

    Szulik also outlined successes that Linux has achieved in governments around the world, notably China, which is adopting Linux for desktops and using the operating system throughout its infrastructure for public education.

    "There is a financial future in open-source," he said.

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