Imagine a place where all businesses had $0 recurring expense for business related software. A wonderful land where all you had to worry about was convincing clients to pay you for maintenance, and not license fees. Supposedly, Canonical and other Linux-based companies would argue that such a world truly exists. It's a lie.
Okay, I admit that I'm being a bit harsh. But the reality is that Ubuntu and other Linux desktop are not even close to being ready for prime time business operations. The blame doesn't lie solely on Linux, but also on the market.
Businesses feel warm and fuzzy when spending money
There are three reactions I receive every time I offer Ubuntu to a client as a desktop solution:
- “What does Ubuntu mean?”
- “Will I still have my Window's desktop?”
- “Why is it free?” (not in the is it free because it's created by geniuses that want to free software from the shackles of big business? But, everything that's free must suck so why are you offering me this crap?)
Businesses need to operate, and the only way they can feel safe knowing that a new thing will keep their business running is to pay lots of money for it. It doesn't matter if the thing is horrible.
Ubuntu is still buggy
When a 60+ year-old business owner asks “where did the power button go?”, I would normally think that it was an age-to-technology gap situation. But not with the latest version of Ubuntu (10.04 as of writing this). Things on the Gnome desktop regularly disappear, move around, and stop working. Maybe it's to keep everyone's mind sharp, but to a business owner it's unacceptable.
The market doesn't like Linux
No matter how you want to spin it, the market doesn't like desktop Linux. Don't get me wrong, I love desktop Linux for personal use and for use on business servers, but the vast majority of the market refuses to cooperate with open source operating systems.
Take Intuit for example, because one of my clients was sporting Ubuntu I thought that it'd be great to suggest Quickbooks Online as a cloud-based finance tracker. That's when the hilarity ensued.
First, I had to implement a user agent switcher for Firefox because Quickbooks Online didn't support Linux browsers (and still doesn't as of this post). Everything worked great.
Then they announced that they supported Ubuntu desktop-based browsers. Fantastic! Now I could get rid of the pesky agent switcher workaround. Wait, just kidding! A couple weeks after their announcement they took it back. Not only that, they decided to change all the browsers they supported. No problem, agent switcher to the rescue.
But wait, because they changed their browser support structure the user agent switcher no longer worked. Needless to say after hours and hours of trying to fix this, we bought Windows 7. Sigh…
Oh how I wish…
I really wish that I could offer Linux as a viable alternative to commercial desktop operating systems – but I can't. Although I regularly use Linux for server builds, Linux desktop distributions are still horrible. Although everything is free, the price you pay to ensure that everything will work properly and will be compatible with all web and client-based applications is a no brainer. Canonical, Redhat, Novell, prove me wrong… please…
Think I'm wrong? Let me know in the comments!