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Survey says ... Linux desktop is ever more popular
Dec. 17, 2007

Analysis -- The first thing we can say about the Linux desktop in 2007 is that there are more users than ever. The Linux Foundation 2006 survey had fewer than 10,000 people signing in. This year more than 20,000 Linux desktop users reported in.

Who are these users? Most of them, 69.4 percent, work in small companies with one to 100 workers. To no surprise, many of them, 43.3 percent, are IT professionals or software developers, and most of them, 64.1 percent, have already deployed desktop Linux in the office.

When desktop Linux is deployed in a business, it's being deployed in a big way. In those businesses and organizations with at least one Linux desktop, 40.6 percent have Linux on more than half of their PCs. Windows is still the No. 1 desktop system, with 57.5 percent of Linux PC using offices still running it on half or more of their desktops.

One interesting aspect of desktop choice that John Cherry, the Linux Foundation's former director of global Linux workgroups, described in his blog is that business users would rather have the freedom to mix and match open-source programs than use a preinstalled Linux desktop. Cherry said that "56.6 percent of the recipients believed that preinstalled Linux offerings did not meet their business requirements."

Cherry added, "These responses definitely came from an 'enterprise deployment' perspective. When IT decision makers and system administrators listed the issues with deploying preinstalled Linux offerings, they indicated that freedom trumps convenience. When deploying corporate desktop systems, the administrators want the freedom in defining settings and configuration options. The choice of Linux distribution is import as well. IT organizations do not want to be locked into the Linux distribution vendor that is preinstalled on the hardware they have selected." So, "freedom is still a huge factor in deploying and maintaining preinstalled Linux clients."

The Linux Foundation survey also found that the Linux desktop has become a mainstream desktop replacement. While many businesses use Linux as a development desktop (53.3 percent), almost two-thirds (66.1 percent) use it as a client desktop. Linux is no longer just an operating system for the technically inclined.

It also is an operating system that its users have near complete trust in. Seventy-six percent believe desktop Linux is absolutely ready to for mission-critical applications, while 17.3 percent believe that desktop Linux is probably ready for even the most important business jobs.

The desktop Linuxes being used in businesses are a familiar list to DesktopLinux readers. The Ubuntu family of Linuxes, with 55.2 percent, came in on top. No. 2 was the Red Hat family Red Hat Enterprise Linux/Fedora/CentOS, with 51.3 percent. The Novell SUSE group SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and openSUSE took third place with 32.9 percent.

At home, Ubuntu again comes in No. 1, with 55.1 percent. After that, though, we find an even greater number of Linux distributions. The community Linuxes come into their own here. After Ubuntu comes father distribution Debian, with 20.1 percent. Following the Debian/Ubuntu family, we find the community Linux distributions with corporate backing--openSUSE with 18.6 percent and Fedora with 17.4 percent. Of the other hundreds of distributions, only Gentoo, a Linux distribution for Linux experts, came in with more than 10 percent--10.6 percent to be exact.

These numbers show that no one Linux has a lock on the desktop. Even offices that are using Linux are almost certainly using multiple Linux distributions. While Linux, considered as a whole, is getting more popular on the desktop, no specific Linux desktop seems to be taking the lead.

--Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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