When Mono is completed, Linux is the option for the desktop.

[From Frans Bouma's blog in Boldface, My comments in italics]

Randy Holloway wrote about his vision on Linux and then especially about Linux on the desktop. I disagree with his vision, I think Linux is definitely an option for the desktop at the moment and thus also in the foreseably future. It will become the option for the desktop when Mono is completed. The reason for this is simple: a lot of Windows programs will be written using .NET. If you can run these programs on Linux too, using Mono, what's keeping you on Windows? Perhaps the games. But definitely not the business applications, since the Linux version for spreadsheets, browsers, wordprocessors, emailprograms and other every-day software are solid today, even when compared to Microsoft Office XP.

Linux desktop office applications do not rival those of Windows, in particular Office 2003. We have to be careful when we make generic statements such as this becuase the end result is disappointment and frustation for corporate Linux neophyte.

Imagine a corporate power user that has used Excel to produce Pivot tables (like I do) that provide me with a critical success factors dashboard for my enterprise. If I was to move to any of the incarnations of open office this would be lost. Now, for the corporate user -knowledge, information worker- that I believe Randy has in mind this remains a problem re. Linux as a desktop offering today.

On the other hand, how true is the position that I presented above? By this I mean, how many knowledge workers actually make use of Pivot Tables in Excel? Something tells me I am the exception rather than the norm. Thus, moving away from Desktop productivity tools of type "Office 200x", and looking at email, and web browsing etc. Linux certainly matches Windows pound for pound, but is this enough? What is the current "activation threshold" for Windows vs. Linux for a Desktop user (who just wants email and web browsing)? I think this is Linux distribution dependent, now the last time I attempted this experiment (at least over a year ago) Windows won flat out becuase I had to wrestle with X Configuration en route to getting a graphical desktop (I believe this has improved vastly of late, but I need to perform this experiment using current 8.x and higher Linux distros.).

I've hated Linux and especially its most hardcore supporters, for years. However, you can't have an unbiased vision on what is best for a given company to use as the OS of choice if you are biased yourself. Mono changed me, I really think Mono is the best Linux has ever experienced: it makes transitions of software written for the Windows platform to a free (as in beer, I don't believe in the GPL-philosophy) OS possible.

Mono is going to be the most significant Linux <--> Windows harmonization effort over the long term. This is because parity will no longer be about getting the likes of Open Office to reach functional parity with "Office 200x" as future Windows applications will be "managed code" in nature (a strategic Microsoft goal over the long term), and Mono's goal is to run "managed code" outside the Windows platform (this applies to Linux, UNIX, and other platforms).

Besides Mono, I do think Linux is a good platform to use for everyday business applications today, because the office tools can use Exchange, they can read/write MS Office documents, so why bother investing in MS software when you can save that money and choose the alternative? The only problem is: when you have a lot of desktops to admin as a sysadmin, and you want to do that with the easy tools in Windows server 2003, you're out of luck. 

Linux is a good platform for everday business applications, but not quite good enough in the area of unravelling it's value proposition to the point of obvious simplification for corporate decision makers. This is the current hump in the road to this critical destination in my humble opinion.

Randy and Frans are making very good points that shed light on some of the less covered aspects of the Linux vs. Windows debate.