IDC: Linux gaining momentum, but never count out Microsoft

Mark Brunelli

BOSTON -- Enterprises are increasingly choosing to invest in Linux over Windows because of cost considerations and dissatisfaction with licensing policies. But Microsoft may have some plans in store

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to slow the advance of open source.

Microsoft could trump Linux by undercutting open-source vendors on price and switching to long-term licensing, said Al Gillen, IDC's research director for system software. Gillen was speaking at his company's annual Directions 2004 IT industry briefing.

Microsoft might also undercut Linux vendors by focusing on total cost of ownership (TCO). Specifically, Redmond should focus on lowering long-term management costs associated with Windows. Most of the expense of running Linux is associated with long-term management costs, as opposed to software, he said.

"If you knock (Linux-related) software costs down to zero, you might knock a total of 5% off your TCO over five years," Gillen said.

Linux has increased in popularity in recent years, mostly on the server side. This is because IT staffs tend to like open source. End users aren't quite ready to run the OS on their desktops yet. But IDC said there are desktop Linux users out there, and their numbers will increase over time.

'Techie' shops like Linux

Driving the gradual adoption of desktop Linux are governmental endorsements from some Latin American, European and Asian countries, he said. The main impediment to adoption is end users, who tend to like Windows.

"The technically oriented shops have really led the way for Linux," said Gillen, adding that it is important to examine the Linux market from both the server side and the client side.

Linux on the server side has increased in popularity because it has become more stable over time and there are more applications to run on it. Impediments to adoption have been concerns about whether the system is ready for the enterprise, and what is seen as a lack of formalized technical support.

"The viability of Linux has long been cited as a concern," Gillen said.

Conference attendee Doug Daniel, CEO of the Association of System Builders and Integrators in Atlanta, said that 99% of the companies he deals with use Windows.

"The biggest reservation about Linux tends to be a lack of support," he said. "You have to have a tech staff on board that loves Linux enough that they won't take on additional support."


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