Hoping to revive the flagging fortunes of Linux on the desktop, Linux Centers USA, a New York-based software trainer, is offering to install the open-source operating system for free on users' systems.
Although server versions of Linux continue to cut into the lead held by Microsoft among low- and mid-range servers the last a couple of years, it continues to lag and even lose market share on the desktop to Windows.
In fact, last month startup Eazel, thought by some industry observers to have the best chance of establishing Linux on corporate desktops through its sophisticated graphical interface, closed its doors because of a lack of funding.
Also last month MandrakeSoft SA, a French-based Linux distributor, said it planned to focus on server-based market opportunities and would no longer concentrate on desktop sales.
"Good or bad, there are just too many people who feel at home with their Windows desktop. They may complain about its speed, crashes, and other limitations, but we don't think that means they don't want to learn a new system," said John Goodfriend, president and founder of Linux Centers.
With graphical interfaces for Linux beginning to look more like Windows, better stability, and improved networking hookups and security, Linux Centers is betting that more business and individual users will be willing to at least give it another look for the desktop, Goodfriend said.
Linux Centers will set up systems ready to go with a graphical interface, Internet connection and browser, and a suite of desktop applications, according to Goodfriend.
"We expect to be able to install Linux on 95 pe rcent of the computers people bring to us. For those who have components not supported by Linux, we will be able to tell them how to upgrade with hardware that is supported by Linux," said Frank Michaels, director of the company's New York Linux/Unix program.