13 November 2003 The open source community is preparing an all-out attack on the PC desktop, intended to make the Linux operating system easier to use, better integrated with other software and to interoperate more easily with Microsoft products.
The initiative will begin early in 2004 and will be led by systems giant IBM, Linux distributor Red Hat and the Open Source Development Laboratory (OSDL), which employs Linux creator Linux Torvalds.
The plan was unveiled at the Desktop Linux Conference in Boston, Massachusetts and follows on from such initiatives as the Linux Standards Base (LSB), a late-1990s program that helped improve standardisation and interoperability between different Linux distributions.
“Our user advisory council, as well as a number of our current member companies have expressed an interest in doing the same sort of investment of driving Linux to the desktop… like we’re doing with the data centre,” Nelson Pratt, the OSDL’s director of marketing, told News.com.
The initiative will dovetail with research by Red Hat to introduce a slicker graphical interface, better configuration tools and the ability to integrate and inter-operate with Microsoft products, particularly Active Directory and Microsoft Office file formats.
Such a project will make it easier for organisations to move to Linux, while enabling them to retain past investments in Microsoft software, said Brian Stevens, vice president of operating system development at Red Hat.
Sam Docknevich of IBM Global Services’ National Linux Practice says that organisations should consider migrating to Linux because of the costs involved in migrating from Microsoft’s current Windows environment to operating systems based on the company’s .Net architecture.
Furthermore, Microsoft’s licensing program introduced last year raised the price of running Windows on PC desktops and reflects the cost of vendor lock-in and proprietary control that Microsoft enjoys in the desktop operating systems and software market, he added.
Microsoft is planning to combat the threat posed by Linux with new features in Longhorn, its next major operating system release.
Longhorn will include some much-needed security improvements, such as built-in anti-virus software, but the digital rights management (DRM) software it is also planning to include may equally turn many users away from Windows and over to Linux.
Furthermore, no release date for Longhorn has yet been fixed and analysts suggest that it may not appear before the beginning of 2006.