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OSDL and Desktop Linux - Hype Meets Reality

State of the Linux Desktop

Another attraction of the thin client to developing countries is that the system can be bought for much less, especially if we extend the model to include ultra-thin clients, which are more in line with the financial abilities of the inhabitants of those countries.

The Linux Desktop Working Group
The OSDL Desktop Linux Initiative (DTL) is a workgroup comprised of OSDL members and dedicated OSDL staff. The initial work involved determining a set of usage models that would accurately represent most desktop uses over a broad range of enterprise use. The group eventually decided on five usage models:

  • Single function
  • Transaction worker
  • Basic office
  • Technical workstation
  • Advanced workstation
The group's intent is to create a list of the capabilities that a desktop system must have to successfully address each of the usage models. Once the required capabilities are understood and clearly documented, it will then become possible to identify key inhibitors preventing successful adoption, as well as specific technologies that are either not present, or have some deficiencies when applied to enterprise environments. Working with Linux distributors, existing Open Source development communities, and, if necessary, creating new development communities via OSDL Special Interest Groups (SIGs) the hope is to accelerate Linux development in specific areas that will permit more rapid adoption on the enterprise desktop.

After deliberating it was decided that attempting to address all five of these usage models would be too broad for the team to tackle realistically. It was decided that the Advanced Workstation usage model had by far the most complexity and broadest scope, but actually only reflected a small percentage of desktops in most enterprises. The initial work thus focused only on the first four usage models.

It rapidly became obvious that one of the most important limiting factors for the enterprise was the availability of commercial software. After some investigation it became obvious that:

  • For many applications, there is little hope of Open Source replacements, mainly because they either address very specific needs, or address needs that because they are boring or detail-oriented wouldn't be candidates for a typical Open Source community project.
  • Many of the obstacles facing ISVs are the same issues facing general enterprise users.
  • A large proportion of the problems are also problems beyond the ISV and enterprise user communities.
So one of the prime areas of focus has become enabling ISVs on Linux, since this addresses not only fundamental issues, but issues of more general interest.

In February of 2005 DTL produced a document that in itself isn't meant to be complete, but simply a snapshot document of the work to date. This DTL 1.0 Capabilities document is available on the OSDL Web site.

In March of 2005 DTL held a strategy meeting in Boca Raton, Florida to review its progress to date and to further refine its focus. Work on that is still continuing.

More Stories By Philip Peake

Philip Peake is a professional services consultant, and has worked for a variety of companies including Netscape, AOL, Sun Microsystems and OSDL.
With over 25 years experience of UNIX based systems in Internet and
Intranet enterprise environments, using Linux has been a natural evolution.
Philip has a Batchelor of Science degree in computer science from
the University of Keele in the United Kingdom.

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