In Search of the GNU/Linux Desktop


It is generally accepted that 2008 will be the year of the GNU/Linux desktop – just like 2007, 2006 and all the years before them. But jokes aside, there is clearly something obsessive about the open source world's preoccupation with the desktop. This makes the Linux Foundation's 2007 Desktop Linux Survey results all the more welcome, because they provide a factual basis to discuss the state of the sector.

That's particularly the case because the sample size is impressively big – over 15,000 answered the questionnaire. Moreover, almost exactly a half of those were in Europe, making its results more than usually relevant for readers of this blog.

The most critical applications for the GNU/Linux desktop deployment were fairly predictable: email, browsers and office suite, but VPNs and databases made a surprisingly strong showing. The most popular distro was Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Edubuntu/Xubuntu, which came in well ahead of the second most popular choice, Debian (Fedora, Red Hat and OpenSUSE were all some way behind). This confirms the critical importance of Ubuntu in the desktop space.

One interesting question was “which Windows applications would you like to see ported?”, to which Adobe Photoshop was the most common answer, followed by Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Illustrator: this suggest the open source community should really concentrate on getting Adobe to support GNU/Linux, since it could have the biggest impact on desktop uptake.

Finally, a question asked whether the pre-installed GNU/Linux desktop products were a critically important factor or not; here the respondents were equally divided, with around 42% saying that their organisation had been waiting for them, and the rest preferring to roll their own.

Given the paucity of reliable materials in this sector, this survey is extremely valuable, and should be read by anyone interested in deploying GNU/Linux on the desktop. There's also an alternative commentary on the results from the Linux Foundation itself.

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