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Users see wider desktop adoption in Ubuntu's future

Ubuntu users love Ubuntu's easy installation and community support. But will Ubuntu, a free commercial Linux desktop, take market share away from Red Hat and Novell?

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Ubuntu could be the operating system with enough pluck and mettle to muscle its way into the commercial Linux desktop space, according to feedback from a recent inquiry.

Ubuntu is the free Linux distribution maintained by Ivory Coast-based Canonical Ltd. Although it is gaining in prominence, the market for enterprise users of the Linux desktop is dominated by the lopsided one-two combination of Red Hat and Novell.

However, since the release of Ubuntu 6.06 in July, the popularity has been ratcheted up thanks to a positive reception to the rebranding and retooling of the OS's server features.

The message from end users is consistent: Ubuntu has the chops to continue on its successful path toward wider adoption in the enterprise. Driving those accolades are factors like ease of installation on the desktop as well as the spirited community that has sprung up around the operating system. Today, according to Web sites like, Ubuntu has more than 70,000 developers under its umbrella and is the most popular Linux OS distribution.

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"[Ubuntu] installed easier than most [Linux] distributions I have tried," said Gary Webber, a school district technology coordinator. Webber said he has also used Edubuntu, a derivative of Ubuntu, and was so impressed with the ease of use that his school district plans on deploying a few boxes with Edubuntu installed this fall.

The technology is not the only attraction. Ubuntu's inclusiveness more than anything else is what sold John Kerr, a library technician from Guelph, Ont. "Why Ubuntu? Because the entire Ubuntu project is in the spirit of the open source movement," Kerr said. "This project caught both my attention and imagination."

As for Ubuntu's technical aspects, that's where the real strength of the operating system lies, Kerr said, especially when compared to other free distributions like Fedora, the community-driven OS based on Red Hat's commercial Linux offering.

"I download one CD -- it has everything that I need on one disk," Kerr said. "I have used Fedora before and other distros but, after a while, downloading four to six CDs to do an upgrade starts becoming a chore," he said.

All of the above is true for Dewey Jones, an IT administrator and user of more than 12 different versions of Linux. But, he added there were a few features he found lacking in the current build.

"Setting up different users and permissions was simple, but I am still learning to use some of the technical parts, like setting up firewalls, installing upgrades and such," Jones said. "[Ubuntu] is much different than Windows but help is readily available on the Internet and in help files on the CD and DVDs," he said.

"The one thing I still have not solved is importing email and address book entries from Windows Outlook 2003. Once that is done, I will bid farewell to all versions of Windows," he said.

But for every user like Jones, there appear to be several like Michael McDaniel, a value-added reseller at Orlando, Fla.-based Configuration Concepts Inc.

"The person there at Ubuntu that heads up quality control should get an award for assuring Ubuntu is as good as it is," McDaniel said. "I've used many distros and feel Ubuntu is good for home or office. It truly is an OS for non-geeks and makes everything so easy -- from installing new software to keeping updated. Anyone can do it with ease," he said.

Kerr sees a market opportunity for Ubuntu in the small and medium-sized business space, while the larger enterprise deployments would still require something like Red Hat or Novell SUSE Linux. "This could change however, and we could very soon have a big three in Linux: Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu," he said.

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