The Linux operating system, when combined with available personal productivity software, packaged application software, and development tools, has reached a level of capability that arguably positions it to be an acceptable alternative client operating environment (COE) solution for many users of personal computers. Making a leap from being an acceptable alternative to capturing the role of a mainstream solution is the chasm that Linux must cross today. We see opportunities for Linux to make inroads in the COE market in the following ways:
- Consumers primarily needing access to the Web, email, and relatively straightforward personal productivity needs could be well served by Linux as a COE today. Those needing specific packaged applications currently not available on Linux may well find application support to be an insurmountable obstacle for the time being.
- Developers creating Unix-oriented, Linux-oriented, or platform-neutral application software have been using Linux as a client operating environment for quite some time. Developers of Windows software, on the other hand, are unlikely to use Linux as their development platform. The trend toward greater platform independence for applications may favour Linux COEs.
- Organisations today can supply task-oriented or "transactional" workers with a system running Linux as the underlying client operating environment for either client/server applications or Web-centric applications.
- Knowledge workers, on the other hand, are likely to remain tied to Windows centric packaged application software, personal productivity software, and development tools over the long term. Organisations will find that these users will be among the last to be suitable for movement to Linux. Organisations may be wise to wait for this software to become available on Linux before rushing into an organization wide Linux deployment.
Shipments of Linux as a client operating environment have been growing rapidly since novice-ready commercial versions of this software were introduced in the late1990s. However, the Linux market share is increasing at a slower rate due to the overwhelming position held by Microsoft's pervasively deployed COE products.