21 May 2009: IBM announced the results of a study conducted by the I.T. analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, commissioned by IBM, which showed that Linux desktops were easier to implement than IT staff expected if they targeted the right groups of users, such as those who have moderate and predictable use of e-mail and office tools
The research behind the report, “Linux on the Desktop: Lessons from Mainstream Business Adoption,” was designed, executed and interpreted independently by Freeform Dynamics. Feedback was gathered via an online survey of 1,275 I.T. professionals from the U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a spread of other countries across Western Europe and the Nordics. Ninety percent of the study’s respondents had direct experience with desktop Linux deployment in their business.
Those with experience of such migrations said that Linux on the desktop was best achieved when it was first targeted to groups of non-technical users. Transaction workers and general professional workers were seen as more than twice as likely to be primary targets for desktop Linux adoption than mobile and creative staff. A majority of the respondents indicated that Linux desktop deployments to these targeted groups was easier than anticipated.
“Some users care a great deal about their desktop computing environment and may be emotionally or practically wedded to Windows,” said Dale Vile, research director, Freeform Dynamics. “The trick is to avoid getting distracted by these, and focus on the users for whom the PC on their desk is simply a tool to get their job done. Migrating a general professional user who only needs to access a couple of central systems, an email inbox and light word processing is pretty straightforward.”
Key statistics of the study include:
71% of respondents indicated cost reduction as their primary driver for adoption.
35% stated the ease of securing the desktop was another primary driver
32% cited the lowering of overheads associated with maintenance and support in general were factors contributing to the benefit of desktop Linux adoption
Those with experience of Linux desktop rollouts are 50% more likely to regard non-technical users such as general professional users and transaction workers as primary targets for Linux
58% of those with prior experience of a Linux desktop rollout see general professional users as primary targets
52% of those with prior experience of a Linux desktop rollout see transaction workers as primary targets.
32% of those with prior experience of a Linux desktop rollout see power users as primary targets.
47% of respondents said usability was the main consideration when evaluating or selecting a desktop Linux distribution for use in a business environment
The study confirmed Linux on the desktop adoption is primarily driven by cost reduction. About twice as many of the respondents cited cost savings over security as the primary driver of why they’d adopt Linux on the desktop. Participants in the study indicated that both environments can be secured adequately — it’s just cheaper to secure a Linux desktop and maintain it that way.
“If a company is a ‘Windows shop,’ at some point it will need to evaluate the significant costs of migrating its base to Microsoft’s next desktop and continuing the defense against virus and other attacks,” said Bob Sutor, vice president of Linux and open source, IBM Software Group. “Savvy IT departments see the Linux desktop as a PC investment that actually saves money during this downturn. We see the recession fueling open source on the desktop.”
The user groups in the study were defined as:
IT operations/support staff
General professional users (relatively light and predictable use of e-mail, office tools, etc)
Transaction workers (mostly using enterprise applications in a routine prescriptive manner)
Other (non-IT) technical staff (e.g. engineers, technical designers/architects)
Office based power users (e.g. finance staff, marketing teams, knowledge workers, etc)
Highly mobile professional users (e.g. sales, roaming managers, etc)
Creative staff (non-engineering, e.g. graphic design)
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