One of the "birds of a feather" evening sessions at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo was called "Year of the Linux Desktop ... Again." And the consensus among the handful of nighthawks at the session was that this still won't be desktop Linux's year.

Vendors such as Red Hat, Novell and Xandros have high hopes for their desktop Linux offerings. But they can't point to many user success stories -- certainly none on the scale of Linux server installations. "There is a lot of interest [among users] in switching to Linux," said Xandros' marketing director Stephen Harris. "But are there a lot of examples of where they've gone out and done it? No."

Of more than 40 IT managers who were interviewed at LinuxWorld or who responded to a random e-mail and telephone poll during the past two weeks, none has plans to deploy desktop Linux on a large scale. Only respondents from two universities indicated that they have more than a handful or isolated pockets of Linux desktops: Notre Dame University, at about 10 per cent of its user population, and Oregon State University, at five per cent.

Some companies said they have examined the prospect of moving to desktop Linux to assist in their contract negotiations with Microsoft. Others are trying Linux in kiosks or for limited-function desktop systems.

Troy Backus, network manager at Kerr Group, said the bottle cap manufacturer has installed Linux-based human resources kiosks in the cafeterias at its eight manufacturing facilities. Kerr also asked the vendor of its production monitoring software to port the application's interface to Linux, Backus said. "I don't envision that desktop Linux is ever going to replace all my Windows machines," he said. "But there is a certain area within my manufacturing facilities where it's a perfect fit."

On the other hand, Neville Teagarden, CIO at ProLogis, said adding another technology to the distribution services firm's desktop environment would likely lead to an increase in support costs that would outweigh any software licence savings.

Linux is a difficult choice on the desktop because good development tools are lacking, said Joe Hartman, an application development manager at HydroChem Industrial Services. "We use a lot of homegrown software that would have to be rewritten to go with Linux on the desktop," he said.