August 7, 2003

Pundits analyze state of open source

- by Lee Schlesinger -
A roundtable of analysts from Forrester, DH Browne, Gartner, and IDC pondered the state of Linux and open source before a large audience at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Wednesday. The consensus: Lack of a few key components make Linux a weaker alternative than it might be.Among the items the analysts said Linux lacks were support from ISVs for enterprise business applications (with the notable exception of PeopleSoft). The analysts agreed that Microsoft's Visual Studio was a better integrated development tool than anything offered as open source, though they said Eclipse shows promise.

Ted Schadler of Forrester called Linux a "me-too" desktop operating system, and said that Microsoft would out-price and out-channel any OS that was simply trying to catch up with Windows. IDC's Dan Kuznetsky suggested that perhaps a scenario-based computing model that makes work more fun, intuitive, like a game, might be a successful direction for a desktop operating system.

Kuznetsy and Gartner's George Weiss noted that the desktop is becoming a hub for handheld devices or pervasive clients. For desktop Linux to advance it needs to build in support for these smaller devices, they said.

On the other hand, open source does offer significant strengths. It breeds rapid, shared innovation. It brings Unix power and reliability to the less expensive Intel hardware platform. And it allows organizations to avoid locking themselves into a particular hardware platform, since it runs on devices at all ends of the computing spectrum.

Of course, it helps to take all this punditry with a grain of salt. When moderator Larry Augustin asked, "Has Linux crossed the chasm into the enterprise?", one analyst responded, "We need to define 'enterprise'," while another said, "We need to define 'chasm'." That kind of perception is why organizations so generously compensate analyst firms.

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