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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: May 2006

March of the penguin

1 May 2006

Last month I wrote an editorial titled: 'So Linux turns out to be a yawn' in which I expressed a few personal thoughts about Linux, some not very positive thoughts. I was expecting some responses from the hardcore technical devotees, but was surprised by the e-mails I received.
Firstly, the initial batch of e-mails arrived from everywhere except South Africa. I was attacked from Poland and some obscure spot in the south of the USA. Then I was educated that in certain US government departments, "Linux is taking over", although the writer seemed to indicate Sun was the primary victim of Linux's growth. And then there were a few others from Europe, all telling me I was wrong - some politely, others not.
Only after our international Web readers had their say did we get some comments from the local market, only a few though. And most of these supported my point of view, with a couple taking a somewhat 'alternate' view, to put it politely. Of course there may be more to come as the magazine reaches its readership.
So the question I am left with is: why is Linux making inroads internationally but not here? I agree that the Linux server is a good platform, but I hear more about people chucking Linux for Windows than about those opting for Linux over Windows or anything else. Is this a matter of bad PR on the part of Linux vendors and good PR from the Microsoft camp? No matter what, the facts in South Africa are that Linux still seems to be playing catch-up. Although that may be changing if you look at some of the reports we carry in this issue of Network Times.
Then we get to the desktop scenario. While many people wrote to tell me there are easy Linux desktop options, such as Linspire, which apparently is easy to install and use, half of the respondents agree that the desktop still has a way to go. The other half disagree, with some suggesting that comparing the Windows desktop to Linux is stupid as it is a totally different system.
I could agree with that, but when considering Microsoft's dominance of the desktop, any challengers will always be compared to Windows.
To displace Windows on the desktop, Linux vendors not only have to match what Microsoft offers, but must offer added value to convince people to take the plunge. That is not what Linux fans want to hear, but it is the reality.
Nevertheless, Linux is in no danger of doing a disappearing act, and I never suggested it was. The question I still have is exactly how widely Linux has been adopted in South Africa and which companies are using it - as a server and as a desktop. I suspect the server installed base would be something to talk about, however, I am of the opinion that desktop adoption in South Africa is still a rarity.
Andrew Seldon


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