Selling Revolution

Having recently earned my admission into the Sons of the American Revolution, and thus having a genetic predisposition for radical change, I have to temper myself whenever I see signs of subversion afoot.  The technology industry never sees a week pass without InfoWorld or eWeek breathlessly proclaiming a new technology that will alter the fundament of IT.  And in most instances we are wrong.

So when I started to see bubbles about Linux desktops finally gaining traction, I gathered many grains of salt.  Desktop Linux demand has been predicted as often as Ted Kennedy’s sobriety, and with as many proofs of such.

But in the last two weeks we have seen Dell, HP and Novell all utter words of growing demand.  As languid as these may have seen, we must pay attention to when two of the biggest box vendors, and the Linux desktop distro king all make moves.

Dell admitted to certifying Novell’s desktop Linux for their machinery.  Their decision to proceed was based on "overwhelming" demand expressed by their customers on the Dell IdeaStorm web site.  The IdeaStorm site is an example of smart inbound technology marketing.  By soliciting ideas, and having the wisdom of crowds prioritize these suggestions, Dell is actively and automatically discovering where untapped market opportunities lay.  They are also discovering technology buying trends in their earliest phase, and thus will
outmaneuver their competitors.

Hewlett Packard has evidently identified the same latent Linux desktop demand, anticipating a critical mass in the near future.  Though not yet committing to (again) preloading desktops with Linux, HP has witnessed a surge in buzz over the last six months.  They sense demand overseas — primarily in Asia where one client ordered 30,000 Linux loaded laptops — but in all likelihood this will cause such systems to leak into the North American market.  They also note that most of the demand is arising from enterprises, which makes sense as the potential for IT cost savings is greatest there.  For now they are dancing Dell’s dance, and certifying various machines to run Linux desktops.

Novell, who has a deeply vested interest in promoting Linux on the desktop, announced that they are re-raising the
Thin Client
banner ( Oh no! Not again. Will this beast not die? ).  Novell (and SuSE before them) had well honed tools for creating custom bootable Linux images and automating network server deployment.  This has been applied to the desktop, and opens a new opportunities for enterprises that Windows-based thin clients could not.  Specifically enterprises can now whittle
a desktop down to the essential software required by employees and at per-set price points that give Bill Gates night shivers.

Desktop Armageddon is not yet upon us, but one can’t help but believe the winds of change are blowing.


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