It's the law of unintended consequences. Microsoft's launch Vista was the best recruiter for Linux on the desktop according to a senior IBM executive.
Bob Sutor, vice president for Linux and open source for IBM, was speaking on the publication of a global survey on Linux deployment on the desktop, commenting that there was a gradual erosion of Windows use within enterprises. "It's not a full frontal assault," he said. He said that users were learning that there were other alternatives to Microsoft. "It's not just about Linux," he said. "It's the growing use of Macs and the rise of smart phones as alternatives to Windows desktops." He said that Microsoft must be hoping that it gets Windows 7 right or it's really in trouble.
According to the research, Linux on the Desktop: Lessons from Mainstream Business Adoption which was carried out by Freeform Dynamics on behalf of IBM, cost was the main driver for Linux deployment with more than 70 percent of respondents giving that as the primary reason.
The survey counted the views of 1,275 IT professionals from a spread of countries, 90 percent of the respondents had direct experience with desktop Linux deployment in their business.
Interestingly, despite Linux's reputation as a techies' tool, the survey respondents found that Linux migration was best achieved when it was aimed at non-technical users. "Some users care a great deal about their desktop computing environment and may be emotionally or practically wedded to Windows," said Dale Vile, research director, Freeform Dynamics. "The trick is to avoid getting distracted by these, and focus on the users for whom the PC on their desk is simply a tool to get their job done."
Sutor endorsed this point of view. "I see Linux deployment being aimed at particular types of users - call centre workers for example."
Other factors given by the survey respondents for adopting Linux included ease of securing the desktop and the lowering of maintenance overheads. Sutor dismissed suggestions that there was skills shortage. "It's true that there are more people with Windows skills," he said. "But Linux needs far fewer people to maintain and support it."
Earlier, speaking at the Cloud Expo conference in London, Sutor said that the growth of cloud computing was an ideal environment for Linux to thrive. He cited security, scalability and costs as key areas that would aid growth.