Some readers of this blog know that I recently moved my family from North Carolina to Virginia. The move went smoothly and I now find myself employment with a Fortune 500 company as a project manager. Therefore, I am in both unfamiliar territory as well as familiar territory. Familiar because there is a complete lack of Linux in this entire business; which is something I’ve read about considerably across many Linux websites…and also unfamiliar because I thought that reading these same articles allowed me to know the scope of Microsoft in business. I was dead wrong.
Unveiling the Beast
How could I have been so blind? I ask myself this question often now… Other new IT Professionals finding employment in corporate America might have asked themselves the same question. My conclusion is that Microsoft is far larger than I had EVER imagined. It’s model, its business presence, its structure, and its existence in IT. Straight massive. They’re everywhere IT is…no matter how large an operation or how small it is, Redmond is staring back at you from every neck of the woods. It is so large that I can’t even get a firm grasp of every market it is in or every area it encompasses, nor every niche it has found foothold. Microsoft has a department for every new technology and every standard currently being developed. They also have the largest piggy bank in the world and they don’t hesitate to raid it.
You’re saying, “Yes, Yes, we know this. Everyone that uses Linux knows this.” Perhaps some OSS users get it. But I don’t think everyone truly grasps how large Redmond is and how far its tendrils thread out in business…a majority of Linux users don’t have the whole sprawl of Microsoft in front of them daily to allow it to ‘sink in.’
Most Linux users have to settle for reading about this “whole sprawl” at a technology website or hearing it from a friend of a friend whose brother works at Microsoft. In these situations, reading or hearing about something and actually seeing it put to action are two separate things. With this line of thinking, most Linux users may not fully comprehend the size, involvement, and area that Microsoft currently has.
Being a project manager here has enabled me to see each and every area that Redmond has infiltrated in corporate America. It’s everywhere. And not just in my company, it is also ingrained in every other company that we work with. It’s everywhere and in everything. I was flabbergasted and knocked for a loop when the realization hit me. No longer was it David vs. Goliath. Microsoft is much larger than Goliath could ever hope to be. Nay, it became a spec of dust vs. the sun.
I was completely sunk for about a day. I looked at the Linux business desktop (mainly Suse 9.3 and Red Hat) and then back to XP with all of its enterprise and server manipulation tools staring at me on my work computer and I physically dropped my jaw and slumped my shoulders in disappointment. The Linux business desktop is far inferior in abilities to Microsoft and is conversely inferior to corporate businesses because of its lack of features and abilities. I do understand that this isn’t the fault of Linux but rather, because most vendors develop third party applications to run using Windows. The lack of third party server admin applications and enterprise manipulation tools on the Linux desktop is painfully evident and completely understandable as most vendors do not support *nix desktops. I’m sure that there are many active projects in this area right now. That’s the beauty of Linux…when something isn’t present and there is a need for it, a project springs up and developers begin to remedy the situation.
I firmly believe that, despite being at a disadvantage on the business desktop and inferior currently to Windows, Linux will make progress there. It is the nature of Linux and open source to overcome obstacles and persevere. Unlike desktop systems of the past such as GEOS and OS/2, Linux will not fall out of the limelight nor be bullied into non existence. Two factors dictate this: 1. Linux has no central company for anyone to attack or discredit so it cannot be undermined and 2. When you take out one Linux based company or a Linux programmer/coder, another picks up where they left off.
I’ve heard some Microsoft supporters say that Linux is a virus. In the sense of how Linux spreads and the philosophy of open source, they are right. But Linux is far superior to any “Virus” a programmer could write. It will continually perpetuate despite attempts to thwart it and with each thrust it turns aside it becomes smarter. Inevitably, Linux will push forward and improve because users take pride in that which they create. Since most users don’t own a stake in Microsoft, they are uninterested in making improvements to any Windows desktop…in this line of thinking; proprietary software is its own worst enemy while Linux reaps the benefits of user pride and involvement.
The Internal Enemy
Only one enemy prevents Linux from making major headway in the struggle against Redmond. Linux itself.
The focus of the Linux desktop is the home user and the gootools for it are developed accordingly. A home user doesn’t often need business management solution software such as Altiris. This lack of applications and tools on the Linux business desktop is preventing it from making headway in corporate America. There isn’t anything wrong with this either because Linux is developed by home users FOR home users. No one wants to develop robust business management software to maintain a 4 computer network nor do they want to do it for free.
It’s a catch 22 situation. Very few companies use Linux for their business desktop (I’m speaking large corporations here) so it isn’t in the interest of a software company to develop applications for it…but in order to get a software company to want to develop for Linux, we have to get businesses to use the Linux desktop. It fast becomes evident that we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. For this reason and for the time being, the Linux business desktop will be sparse in this area of business software applications and will continue to be inferior to a third party application filled Windows desktop.
There are bright spots on the horizon such as Novell developing robust management systems like Zenworks 6.5. This software allows management of both Desktop and Server for both Windows and Linux. This is a small step in the right direction and will do much to speed adoption of the Linux business desktop. However, even with Novell and even Red Hat’s help the business desktop for Linux is pushing slowly uphill. Mandriva is a welcome addition to help Red Hat and Novell push the large stone that is adoption up the hill Microsoft sits atop currently. Perhaps all of these companies together may spark a revolution? Time will tell, and I’m hopeful that these three companies are heading in the right direction.
While I don’t think home users can make a chink in that armor, I do believe that companies such as those mentioned above can by invading the business desktop and developing apps for business software management. If big business is attracted to applications on the Linux business desktop…coders will be as well. Then we’ll all reap the benefits of having resurgence in application development for Linux.
What can we do as programmers, coders, and users? More than you’d think. Giving feedback to developers and their programs or distros is a necessity. If you know of an application that is only available in Windows and the open source choice for this application is lacking in specific features…make a specific request to those developers. Communication is key. A feature won’t add itself to a program or distro. In order to get things where they need to be, we need more feedback from users to tell developers exactly what is good or bad about a certain program. Be courteous and to the point and the developers will appreciate the feedback. After all, when was the last time you gave feedback to developers on say, your email reading app in Linux? Or you desktop window manager? Can you remember the last time you submitted a bug report or gave a developer a heads up on what would work better for a feature? If not, why not? Let’s pull together and work on making apps we have better and more feature rich.
Pulling a 360
I’ve constantly fought against business adoption of Linux as evident by previous articles here on Yet Another Linux Blog. I’ve been adamant about companies taking more than they give to open source. I’ve consistently trumped for Linux to remain geared toward home users. Since unveiling Redmond in the past couple of weeks at my new job and seeing the full stretch of Microsoft, I must revise my previous notions.
I see now that Linux on the home desktop won’t be a resounding success unless it is first adopted by business. If Linux gains steam on the business desktop, a large PC manufacturer such as Gateway might be more willing to adopt Linux in a line of PC’s for home. This will never happen unless Linux is already making vast headway in the business desktop sector. So while I still do think that many companies are only worried about their own agenda’s and care little for open source, it is evident to me that without those companies, Linux will not gain widespread adoption.
Sure I was worried when I viewed the beast that is Microsoft from behind the corporate curtain…but what supporter of Linux wouldn’t? If you had no idea about the reach of Redmond, you too might have audibly gasped at the pure volume of involvement present in these large companies. You might have done as I did and remain in a stupor for some time wondering how Linux could even compete. You might have come to the same conclusions as I have…that Linux can compete in the desktop if businesses show that it has a value and place there. Then again you might not.
It does me good to remember a few certainties to put things into perspective. First, Microsoft may a huge behemoth in IT but even the giants topple. When giants do, it doesn’t take much…just a small crack in the armor that allows something through and the giant will fall. And secondly, with the lull before the Longhorn storm, now is the time for Linux to strike. Thus far, with more than three large vendors offering business desktops, Linux is ready to answer the call. The question is…will businesses be calling? I hope so.
This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.