Why companies do not use Linux on the desktop

There is a very long running discussion on LinkedIn with the headline "Why aren't more corporations using Linux as a desktop OS?" and after a while I had the feeling of the same reasons and arguments returning again and again.

So I went over all the comments again and tried to categorize the opinions (trying to filter out those who already replied earlier with same or similar arguments.

Here is the result with the 15 most mentioned reasons of not using Linux on the desktop - from the opions of the discussing people (the red ones I consider in fact being issues to be solved, my comments in italic):
  1. Slick Microsoft PR, Windows is the defacto standard or simply inherited monopoly. (18 votes)
    This is a fact, but not a reason for using Windows. If so, we would still ride on horses and don't have cars - just because horses were a monopoly for traveling (related to 11.)...
  2. Missing appropriate software on Linux (for particular needs) / Vendor Lock-in. (18 votes) - Mentioned were in detail: Branch specific, special used apps not platform independent and/or not integrated well, AD, Deployment, AS400, Sage, Meeting- and Conference-Software, Photoshop, Exchange-Integration, Smart-Phone-Integration, AutoCAD, Screen Reader, ...
    Yes, this is really an issue - and that is because the fact mentioned above in 1. and hence followed by 6. The result is that many developers and software companies still just focus on Windows.
  3. Compatibility issues Linux-Windows in software when collaborating. (13 votes) - Mentioned were in detail: MS Office vs OpenOffice/LibreOffice, some proprietary formats can't be read, Domain-Integration, Some websites are IE only, General compatibility-fears.
    The MSO vs OOL/LO issue is a really big one because many people write many documents and many people need to collaborate. There are many compatibility issues - already between different versions of Microsoft Office. The 2007 and 2010 docx, xlsx, pptx formats (yes, we have already two variants of the *x-formats) introduce a lot of possible conversion/open/save problems. I could write a long blog post just about those issues. Domain integration I do not consider important as I find the whole domain system outdated looking at current company structures (increasing cooperations between separate companies for example) and how they evolve. To develop IE-only websites nowadays is still done - although completely free of sense.
  4. Too much tech-knowhow needed (just for nerds, servers and/or for commandline junkies). (11 votes)
    In reality, if you want good work to be done, on Windows you also need much in-depth knowhow. It's just, that quite every guy or girl, spent hours in front of the computer gaming, already considers himself/herself a computer guru...
    What simply is not true is, that you need to be a commandline junkie or a nerd to use Linux. Those days are a long gone - Linux has graphical environment!

  5. People already know Windows and are simply resistant to change (and will struggle). (10 votes)
    Most people I met who showed resistance when I talked about Linux, weren't interested that much because they do not use computers that much - use it only when necessary for writing an email or surf some website. Those can be considered to be resistant to computers in general. Although even those could have a better computer experience going Linux, it's usually best to just let them continue until the next virus has biten their OS to death.
  6. Lack of awareness / Ignorance or simply decision of management. (9 votes)
    Yes, is an issue. People simple don't open their eyes. This point is somehow related to 5. I found that most people currently in management, grew up with Windows. That's simply their comfort zone and usually they are so busy and so convinced of themselves that they simply don't consider anything different. This will change over the years, when more people grow up with Macs or Linux machines. I do trust, that even without active marketing, people will notice the advantages plus their current suffering and move over slowly.
  7. (Migration) costs (get it to work, experience, train users etc). (9 votes)
    Related to 10. Of course, when considering a big change (and changing OS in a company is a big change anyway), investment is needed. I also have invested a lot of time into learning Linux, which only at the beginning is really tough until you understood some core things. And for the admins there is a lot more to learn than for the users. In my case I was so annoyed by Windows and the continuous suffering that - when I started - I was sure, it will be worth the investment - and it was! And honestly: Switching from XP to Windows 7 or from Office 2003 to 2010 is also eating a lot of money and requires additional training for the users.
  8. Missing Linux Knowhow (and not enough time to dig into it). (7 votes)
    Related to 7. Of course, in the beginning there is missing know-how. But seriously: Switching from Windows Server 2003 to Server 2008r2 also required additional know-how - even worse - you think, you know it, but then you oversee some relevant changes (like the syswow64 registry hive and separate 32-bit executables in that folder) during your first attempts. You have to struggle with the new versions because Microsoft urges you by quitting support for the older OS versions. In reality you don't even have time to dig into the new Windows details, isn't it? - New details, new problems...
  9. Hardware compatibility issues. (7 votes)
    Yes, you need to take care (which the normal default user does not - or cannot - when buying a new PC). I had problems with particular WLAN-cards, Bluetooth-adapters, sound and video cards first of all. Issue can be widely reduced by buying officially certified hardware for example (either by Canonical or the hardware vendor for example). Dell and Lenovo for example are vendors known to be very compatible with Linux (anyway you need to look at the particular model or just ask the vendor or partner of your choice). I usually recommend people: When buying, tell them that you want a Linux-compatible model - otherwise you will return it back).
  10. Less educated specialists/administrators available or cost more. (7 votes)
    Related to 7. - I am pretty sure that a real good Windows administrator will also ask more. By tendency, there are more people working in Windows environment, but total number of real specialists I think is not significantly more than in Linux world. But I understand, that this can be an issue for a medium-sized or small company just watching out for the cheap administrator around the corner.
  11. People don't want to run risks and do what the others do (using the market leader). (6 votes)
    Related to 1. Of course, if you do something new and you fail, people might argue and ask why the hack you didn't follow what the "expert" says. When you do something new then of course you make mistakes - but you will learn and get know-how. But you can do what fits for you. Doing, what the major part of others do (or recommend), you will never get, what really fits really good for your company.
  12. Better support (because you pay for the software and have a contract). (6 votes)
    This is completely wrong! You can also get payed support in open source world and a commercial company does never give you the guarantee of continued maintenance. In fact I already invested into software technologies and then the vendor discontinued the product (without selling it to somebody else - just let it die). The history of Open Office and Libre Office shows us, that open source is even the better path here. Oracle thinking of unacceptable changes? - The project was forked quasi in an instant! As long there are some folks being interested in it, it can continue to life - even if it's just you - it's your choice.
  13. Windows already there on the shipped PC. (6 votes)
    I have never ever kept the default installation on a PC - neither when I was still using Windows. In most cases it already started with partitioning that was not fitting my desires or needs. Next could be OS language or preinstalled software. And a Linux installation can be either done by a novice - it's easy (at least the Ubuntu, Mint or Fedora distributions - beside others). The only very annoying thing with a Windows preinstalled is: You already paid the license fee to Microsoft in that case and I am pretty sure, that Microsoft is not sad about it, if you overwrite your OS with Linux because: You don't consume bandwith, don't call support, don't ask stupid questions in forums etc - you pay without either asking a service for it...
  14. Too much confusion because many distros, desktop environments. (6 votes)
    Are you confused and don't know what to use? - No problem, I do recommend Ubuntu with it's default desktop - and choose the LTS version. If you don't have an idea what you might want, Ubuntu for sure won't be a bad choice. But the point is: You have the choice! People work in different ways, have different priorities and have different jobs. You might discover later that you prefer a different distribution. You may consult distrowatch.com. At this point I still find the Ubuntu distribution the most stable one (regarding the complete set of applications existing around) offering everything I need regarding features and additional packages.
  15. Windows (and apps) looks/works better, is easier to use and/or has better/more features. (6 votes)
    Simply not true. Why? Regarding the look: There are so many nice themes you can choose - for sure you will find one that you find cool. And of course you can choose a totally different desktop or window manager - there are so many around (you get an overview at wikipedia). Just combine the desktop of your choice with the theme of your choice - watch, what people do show on youtube! Finally you can either make your Ubuntu look like Windows XP or Windows 7 - watch this video. - Regarding the features: A standard Windows installation is totally barefoot and poor in relation to a standard Ubuntu installation. There isn't either Office installed by default (if you didn't buy it alltogether with MS Office included). People who find Linux has poor features sometimes think of particulare Windows software not available or running on Linux - that is more related to 2.
 Hope this helps.

Related posts: Popular Ubuntu desktop myths, Implementing effective computer security, Going Linux, Efficient desktop environment.


Shannon Black said...

Well put :)

Anonymous said...

well written. A fact sheet.

Hugo P said...

In business desktop market, Linux should be flexible like a reed instead of a oak. This market is so jam by long years of Windows hegemony that Linux shouldn't front attack it. I think it should enter be the side door. "Linux is a geek stuff ?" Ok! start by implemented on tech employees desktop: developer, admin , dba and so on.

Lambda user should be in contact with Linux to tame it.

Martin Wildam said...

I agree with you and I think it enters through the tech guys already - like me. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Bullshit ! Why should struggle lot for Linux if people around you or staff in your office wants to use Windows?? They want Windows, because it's more user-friendly and much better GUI than any Linux distros. Forget Ubuntu, if you dont want get myopic in your eyes.

You'll never get BIG problem on Linux, until you're dealing with terminal prompt only. Trust me, it gonna make you feel pain and want to vomit, and will make you want to write on Google search "I HATE LINUX !!". :D

And, I bet you are using WINDOWS right now and will keep using Windows for future long time. You just embarrassed to admit that you are actually a WINDOWS USER !! And pretend on internet that you are a Linux techie user. :P

Martin Wildam said...

a) People do not explicitely want to use Windows. They use it just because the others around them use it and because most of the users anyway need a helping hand when it comes to computers.

b) I have seen soooo many people working with computers and sooo many companies. You cannot apply such a general sentence like "more user-friendly and much better GUI" to all people and all companies. People have different needs, different priorities, different ways to work (which also a lot depends on their type of job) and they like different things. From your comment I interpret that you give a lot on icon styles. I do not. I work all day (and often nights also) with the computer with many different applications windows open at the same time. My absolute priorities are reliability and productivity (e.g. get to what I need with less clicks and so on). If one is just reading mail, watch videos or surf the net, it is pretty irrelevant, which OS you are using.

c) I am not using the commandline only - the opposite is true - I use it seldom. I am not a server-guy (at least not a typical one).

d) You are wrong, I am not using Windows. I don't even have Wine (the windows API layer for Linux) installed. Neither does my wife. At home were are totally Windows-free and even in the Office I am not using Windows (since 2009). I do need to deal with Windows also of course as customers are using it, but this is mostly in remote sessions only. So I am definitely NOT a Windows-User, not even for gaming or whatever - no dual-boot.

Martin Wildam said...

Oh, and I have migrated several other people - some of them used Windows for many years before and they are very happy now.

Anonymous said...

I usually only read comments, though in this case I felt compelled to say something. I just want to say thanks for helping spread the word about Linux. As a lifetime user of Windows I've decided to give Linux a try, mainly out of curiosity and now find myself booting Windows less each day.

Anonymous said...

Linux has a long way to go to become a desktop OS. Why?

1. Applications, there's very few applications we use today on Linux still. Mac OS X had this issue but is starting to catch on in the past 3 years with the help of iOS leading in the enterprise world and introducing Mac's into the work place.

2. Sales, you buy a PC you get Windows. you buy a Mac you get OS X. Very few times will you buy a computer with Linux. If RH wanted to push desktops, they would pre-install them on laptops and sell them to Best Buy but they don't. Why? Because they know it won't sell.

3. Support, you break your PC or Mac, you go to Best Buy or Apple Store. Who do you go to with Linux?

4. Stability, while the kernel in most server's are about a year behind like in RHEL and Debian, desktop users demand the latest features. So you don't have much of a stable system. I've used Debian/RHEL and can attest to a solid platform, but move into Ubuntu or Fedora and welcome to crashes.

Ascaris said...

It's been months since Anonymous wrote that last comment, but it's still pertinent, so here I go.

"Stability, while the kernel in most server's are about a year behind like in RHEL and Debian, desktop users demand the latest features."

Windows 7 is by far the most popular version of Windows. After giving Windows 10 away free to home users for a year, and an unprecedented "cramming it down their throats" promotional effort, they've achieved 17% market share vs. just under half for Win 7, which was released 6.5 years ago.

That doesn't sound like most people are demanding the latest features. It sounds more like demanding the best OS, which in the Windows world is currently Windows 7, by general consensus.

The most popular distro now, according to the flawed (though it is all we have) statistics of Distrowatch, is Linux Mint, which is an Ubuntu derivative for desktop users that uses an older, more thoroughly tested kernel), and it is considerably more stable than Ubuntu in the small bit of experience I have with them both.

Martin Wildam said...

I think it depends on the new features if people want it. Basically Microsoft has not put any real innovativation into Windows since a long time. And of course if the most relevant new "feature" is introducing advertising banners then it is no wonder that nobody wants to adopt it.

The biggest change on Ubuntu was the move to Unity desktop which in the beginning lead to more stability problems in the first time. And here I must admit th at not every Linux distribution more stable than Windows in all times. But hey, you don't need to update to or run on the bleeding edge.

Pete said...

A common thread I see amongst users (in IT support) is the idea of 'aint broke, dont fix it'. It is not because Windows is perfect or even a superior operating system, or that its applications can do everything, or that they are gurus. It is because for the most part it is what they have grown up learning, it is the OS ecology they work in, and they have shaped their daily operations around working with Microsoft tech.

Put a Linux box in front of a regular user and their first instinct is to try and figure out how to do what they did in Windows. Write Office compatible documents, use a browser, send email, play music. They dont have the option of asking tech support how to do something every 5 minutes, or ask the person at the next desk how to do it, and ive seen firsthand the looks of disgust firsthand when I ask someone to google a solution. Linux can do everything they want and more, but do they want the more?

We've seen the same in the android/iphone wars until the likes of Samsung and Google stepped up their marketing game. People who started on an iPhone, had their friends on iPhones, and while offering less apparent functionality is easy to use right out of the box. They decide to try an android at the suggestion of their more tech savvy friend that points out a cool feature or two, turn it on and then get annoyed because it doesnt work the same as an iPhone. Too many options, too many interfaces, all if their iphone friends telling them to switch back.

To get people on Linux you not only have to give them a reason to use Linux, you need to give them a reason they CANT use Windows or Mac.

Computer village said...

Think, its their own fault.