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September 2, 2011
Should enterprises upgrade to Windows 7? If you’re in the IT channel, chances are good you’ve pondered that question at least once or twice in the last few years. In a new e-book, however, Canonical urges administrators to consider another option: exiting the Microsoft ecosystem entirely by switching their desktops to Ubuntu. Here are the details.
To be sure, pushing Linux as an operating system not just for servers but also for corporate desktops is neither a very new idea, nor one that originated with Canonical. Linux distributions such as Caldera were marketed for the business channel more than a decade ago, and as early as 2008, Canonical partnered with IBM to deliver a virtualized desktop solution aimed at enterprises.
In a new, free e-book titled “Crunch time on the Enterprise Desktop,” however, Canonical representatives make the case that right now is a particularly apt time for businesses to consider a switch to Ubuntu. And it’s not for technical reasons, but financial ones.
For the most part, the short book’s arguments in favor of Ubuntu are pretty standard: it runs well on hardware that organizations already own, is less susceptible to malware and comes with a variety of productivity applications built-in. These are important points to make for readers who may know little about modern Linux, but they won’t surprise anyone already familiar with the open source channel.
In contrast, the more innovative component of the book is its emphasis on the cost savings that switching to Ubuntu could offer to enterprises at this particular moment. The intense pressure which businesses face to upgrade their legacy Windows desktops as Microsoft products such as Windows XP approach the end of their life cycles, the text argues, makes Ubuntu a much more attractive option on the corporate desktop than sticking with Microsoft.
The book cites numbers from Gartner affirming that upgrading to Windows 7 will force businesses to shell out significantly more cash on hardware purchases. It also quotes a representative of the French National Police, who said of that organization’s decision in 2006 to replace its Windows desktops with Ubuntu:
We weren’t experiencing technical problems, but financial ones. For the same amount of work, yielding the same results, we realised that Windows would cost us €2 million more than Ubuntu every year.
In addition to the costs associated with Microsoft upgrades and licensing, Canonical makes the case that the economic downturn makes Ubuntu a safer option in uncertain financial times:
The economic recovery has been fragile and we are not out of the woods yet. This is not a time for splurging on IT; it’s a time for making very careful, very judicious investments and for saving money wherever possible. With Ubuntu you can save millions on license and hardware costs while your competitive edge remains as sharp as ever.
Sooner or later, fat economic times will (hopefully) return, and the financial advantages associated with Ubuntu as a desktop solution may become less important for enterprises. Canonical’s emphasis on the cost savings of Ubuntu is thus probably not a great long-term strategy. But for now, it’s a timely endeavor that may well pay off.
Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.
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