Linux Desktop - An Analyst's Nightmare

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Tom Adelstein
Sep. 19, 2005 10:59 AM

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Many historic examples exist where whole societies subscribed to some inaccurate belief. People of the early 21st century may think themselves immune but when it comes to some technologies the earth has neither motion or roundness. Regardless of the esteem with which an analyst may be held, many will share a similar place in history as those that spoke against Galileo Galilei: forgotten.

Analysts who deny Linux's place in the enterprise as a desktop have either failed to interrogate the system thoroughly or have a bias. Few, if any other explanations exists. People either consider their habits more important than rational observation or their beliefs superior to others.

If one will simply take a set of tasks required of a desktop and investigate the leading operating systems, then Linux will accomplish the most. Additionally, Linux will have better response time, will use less resources and requires less administration.

So, how come so many analysts and members of the media challenge Linux's place in the enterprise and among consumers? First, you might ask if that question has any relevance. You might as well ask how come so many people have an IQ of less than 100. Or why do medical doctors think they should be master pilots with ten hours of lessons?

People who have mastered the craft of writing, don't necessarily qualify as expert analysts. I know few who can write and analyze an operating system. I know few people who can analyze an operating system and carry a conversation with another human being. Have you ever heard a writer say, "I'm not technical?" How about a technician say, "I'm not good with people?"

Linux desktops give many analysts problems because it's their worst nightmare. To do the system justice they would have to admit that they don't really know what they're doing in the first place. If you cannot figure out Linux, you have no place pontificating about information technology.

Good analysts usually have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They socialize easily and can politic with the best. They generally make lousy technicians.

So, they hire others to do the job. What do they look for in junior technical analysts? They look for communication skills and someone who can explain things to them. So, when a young man or woman comes into a meeting and throws around the latest buzz words from the technical farm, suddenly a top analyst puts his or her trust on the shoulders of the next fool.

Last week, one of the Linux luminaries discussed media bias against Linux and took some heat for it. I read one of the media target's responses and wanted to write him. I just couldn't think of a diplomatic way to engage him in an interaction that would make a difference.

John Terpstra made a grand effort at explaining some of the myths in the media about Linux in an article at Search Enterprise Linux. I have a high regard for John. He's one of the few people I know that can explain technical issues for an hour without putting an audience to sleep.

John's premise dealt with IT decision makers' tendency to purchase products without doing due diligence. No doubt, John made salient points. Many have seen the same thing in corporate offices.

I would build on John's premise by saying that I don't think IT decision makers could actually perform due diligence objectively. Oh, they could go through the motions and fill in forms and ask questions and cover themselves. But can they actually handle the standard body of knowledge?

If those in charge of IT decision making and their analysts could perform due diligence, then they would use Linux already. Call it a pathology if you want. Most of us in the business already know that we often work for people less capable than us. So, that proliferates the field.

I read this morning that a chain of stores in South Africa has decided to stop stocking Novell Linux Desktops. They said that their customers found it too complicated. Perhaps the sales people may have thought that. My research indicates that Novell's Linux Desktop is easier to use than Microsoft Windows or the Mac OS X.

A national retail chain in my home town advertises $150 computers bundled with Linspire. I have made several trips to their stores and asked for a demonstration. Each time, the sales people attempted a bait and switch. They say something like, "for a couple of hundred dollars more you can buy a similar system with additional memory and Windows XP home edition".

A thumbnail of the recommended upgrade system used to appear on the signage of the Linspire bundled machine. The salesman would point to the sign. That suddenly stopped when I spoke to the manager of one store and explained the law against false advertising. I bought one of those computers at the same time, got a nice discount and used it in a conference presentation. It worked well.

If you pay an analyst to advise you about Linux desktops and they say that Linux is not ready, consider a second opinion. Ask someone on your staff that uses Linux at home. That's what IBM did about five years ago before they began selling it.

Tom Adelstein became an author in 1985 and has published and written non-fiction books, journalistic investigative reports, novels and screen plays prolifically ever since.