While Linux is being “fiddled with” on the desktop in just about every large Australian organisation, its impact on sales of Microsoft software are minimal, according to new research. Market research firm S2 Intelligence has conducted a study of more than 70 large organisations and found that the vast majority (78.6 per cent) have no Linux software in production on the desktop. Only 2.9 per cent of surveyed companies had more than 50 desktop machines running Linux, but these were generally for specialised implementations. “To be honest I was expecting even less,” S2 managing director, Bruce McCabe, said. “There are pockets of Linux on the desktop out there, but very few are in production.” On the desktop, only the propellerheads were using Linux, McCabe said. “There is somebody fiddling with Linux on the desktop in every large Australian company,” he said. “It’s unlikely that it would be declared or even known about, but it is out there. But there is a big difference between trialling software and putting it into production.” McCabe said that if you are out looking for Linux on the desktop, the first place you should look is academia and research. S2 found a similar trend when asking large Australian companies about the alternative to Microsoft’s Office productivity software, Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice.
Negotiating lever “Scott McNealy tells us there are 130 sites in Australia either deploying or testing StarOffice,” he said. “I would very much like to see the split between deploying and production.” Asked what factor would tip those that deploy into considering production roll-outs, McCabe said he “could not see it happening”. “There are so many factors working against it,” he said. “Microsoft Office is entrenched — there is a huge amount of investment companies have made in training and methodology, in macros and integration around it. Everyone keeps forgeting these things and talking about the cost of the software.” McCabe suggested that organisations were only running pilot programs for Linux and StarOffice in order to negotiate a better deal with Microsoft. Two of the three most cited reasons for deploying these alternative technologies in the S2 survey were “reduced dependency on Microsoft” and “Negotiation leverage with Microsoft.” “People are using it as a negotiating lever,” McCabe said. “They are not being driven by some more meaningful technical factor — they are not using it because it is superior software for that application, not like on the server where it might be.” McCabe was not convinced that Sun Microsystems’ plans to bundle various open-source software applications together for a complete desktop solution (such as the MadHatter Project) would have any impact on Microsoft sales. “I estimate it will have zero impact for at least 18-24 months,” he said.