The opensource operating system is a real alternative in the server market, but there are still interface and application issues that keep it off the desktop
In the past 12 months, Linux has become less of a buzzword and more of a
reality, with companies ranging from IBM Corp. to Silicon Graphics Inc.
throwing weight behind the open-source operating system.
The operating system is a real alternative in the server market: 60
percent of Web servers on the Internet are running Apache, the open source
Web server software, according to market research firm International Data
Corp. However, the open model of Linux — which is widely considered to be
its strength — also can hinder its acceptance.
"People don't like the fact that the code is constantly being developed,"
said Larry Augustin, president and chief executive officer of VA Linux Systems
Inc., during a keynote address at Linux Expo 2000 in London last week.
The consensus on the show floor was that there are still interface and
application issues that keep it off the desktop."
Companies are still trying to make it easier to use," said David Patrick
Cheng, IT officer at Imperial College in London." Linux will have to continue
its path, heading more towards [graphical user interface] and away from
One product making progress is Applixware Office, a Linux alternative
to Microsoft Corp.'s Office for Windows suite.
"Because of things like identical [key combinations such as Control-C
for copy] and the look and feel of the program, you don't even realize you're
using Linux," said Bernd Wagner, vice president of European operations for
the Linux division of Applix GmbH.
Some companies already have started producing software that enable users
to bring documents created with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint over to a
Linux environment and view or modify the documents using a Linux program.
Another Linux firm, Definite Software PLC, still concentrates on the server
market, but it is likely to aim more at desktop users within the next two
years, according to Lance Davis, a consultant with the company.
However, Davis sees the future of Linux in embedded processors and on
"I think people will use it on the desktop, but will it become the desktop
for everyone is the question," he said.