January 20, 2004

OSDL CEO expounds on Desktop Initiative announcement

Author: Joe Barr

OSDL: it's not just for data centers and carrier-grade Linux anymore. Not as of this morning, that is, when OSDL issued a press release to announce the formation of a third initiative: the Linux desktop. The charter of the new "Desktop Linux Working Group" is "to work with the open source community to identify a broad set of Linux desktop models, then develop specifications and deliver reference implementations." NewsForge had the opportunity to visit briefly with the OSDL CEO Stu Cohen this morning, following the announcement.

One of the first questions I had for Cohen was whether or not this announcement grew out of the recent leak of a internal IBM memo which appeared to call for a corporate migration to the Linux desktop by 2005. Cohen replied:

The answer is no. IBM, HP, Opendesktop.org, Red Hat, Novell, Suse, have been very active in this. And we've got a big user that is part of our customer advisory council that's been very involved in this as well. This has been something that got kicked off in the fall. The work got completed and our board approved it a couple of months ago. There was a couple of sentences about it in the New York Times in early December, [saying] that we were going to announce this in January.

Cohen also told us that the OSDL believes that a full third of desktops in the enterprise could be migrated to Linux today. That's with a slightly expanded definition of desktop from the norm. Cohen explained "We think of the desktop as not only obviously email and calendering but we also, and as importantly, look at desktop as client-server applications, data center integration, branch office, point-of-sale, help desks. Not just personal productivity."

Cohen went on to say OSDL sees another third of today's desktop users, comprised of "the professional that reads [MS} Word documents, reads SAP apps, looks at database Oracle polls, looks at Excel spreadsheets, looks at Powerpoint presentations but doesn't create a lot of them" will be able to move to Linux over the next few years.

The final third? That would be "The mobile user, Blackberry, PDA, big-time developer of Excel spreadsheets or Word documents or Powerpoint" may never move.

No project team members -- there may be a chairman or possibly two co-chairmen -- have been named yet, but Cohen says they will be identified in the near future.

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