Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
More than five years ago the launch of Microsoft Windows XP -- and its considerably improved features and reliability compared with Windows 98 and 2000 -- made a comprehensive desktop rollout a no-brainer for companies. The other options -- still-nascent Linux, IBM's all-but-dead OS/2, or unstable DOS-based versions of Windows -- were all far from desirable.
Now, as the world gears up for the launch of Windows Vista, the conclusion may not be so cut and dry. Certainly, Vista is set to be feature-packed and reliable, and many companies will move to the new platform as a matter of course. However, Linux has come a long way in five years, with the concerted effort of hobbyists around the world supplemented by the resources of tech heavyweights to push its desktop features to near-parity with Windows XP.
Because of these improvements many companies may take the impending upgrade as an opportunity to reconsider the role of Linux in their overall desktop strategy. It is less expensive, of course, and seamless integration with Windows servers and improved management tools has made it much easier to integrate into existing environments. Furthermore, Linux's lower resource requirements may allow it to run on existing desktops that will need replacement for any upgrade to Windows Vista.
If companies find that Linux and related open-source software offer a better overall value proposition than Windows Vista, 2006 could well be the tipping point for desktop Linux.