Originally Published: Thursday, 2 September 1999 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Software That Linux Needs

Linux has a plethora of outstanding software already available. On the server side we have the world's most popular Web server, software enabling file and print services to every major platform, and some of the most respected database products on the market. Linux also touts some wonderful desktop applications such as the GIMP, various capable office suites like StarOffice and ApplixWare, and one of the world's top web browsers, Netscape. All of this great software, yet Linux is still missing some key products which it needs to further its penetration not only as a corporate desktop, but also as a home user operating system....

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Linux has a plethora of outstanding software already available. On the server side we have the world's most popular Web server, software enabling file and print services to every major platform, and some of the most respected database products on the market. Linux also touts some wonderful desktop applications such as the GIMP, various capable office suites like StarOffice and ApplixWare, and one of the world's top web browsers, Netscape. All of this great software, yet Linux is still missing some key products which it needs to further its penetration not only as a corporate desktop, but also as a home user operating system.

First of all, let's look at what is probably the most popular desktop application for both home and business, Microsoft Office. I understand that this is somewhat a taboo subject in the Linux world, but the simple fact is that MS Office is the world's most popular office suite. Furthermore, office productivity applications such as spreadsheets and word processors are probably the most common business applications in use both in business environments and in the home. This popularity means that a very significant percentage of businesses will not even consider a Linux desktop solution due to the lack of 100% file compatibility with MS Office applications. Granted, some of the currently available solutions, such as StarOffice, offer very good file compatibility with MS Office applications. However, 100% file compatibility is still not available.

Other business applications that seem to be lacking on Linux, for the most part, seem to be well on the way to being resolved. E-mail for instance. Sendmail is the most popular mail transport agent in the world today. However, many large companies are interested in the more advanced features offered through products such as Exchange and Lotus Notes. These types of enhanced e-mail services are rapidly on the way to the Linux platform in the form of Hewlett Packard's OpenMail server, and recent developments by Lotus in the Linux world. Lotus recently announced the porting of their Lotus Domino server to Linux -- now we just need the client piece. Other popular business packages such as PeopleSoft and both corporate and small business accounting packages are still big weaknesses for Linux. These are the kinds of applications which Linux needs to overcome the hurdles it faces in coming out of the server room and niche markets.

The home market is very different. A Microsoft-compatible office suite is essential for Linux to succeed in the home market for the same reasons as its importance in the corporate world. Personal finance packages do exist for Linux, but seem to lack the maturity of products such as Quicken and Kiplinger's Tax Cut software. One of the largest markets for home computer software is games; entertainment software is a huge market. These home user applications can go a long way to making Linux a more attractive option for home users.

Linux currently has several open source gaming projects which have provided some very good applications, such as Xpilot and FreeCiv. Additionally, some game developers have begun releasing their commercial products directly for Linux. Recently another game development option for Linux which has been quite successful in porting existing popular entertainment titles is Loki Entertainment Software. Loki is a company whose entire business model revolves around porting existing commercial entertainment software to the Linux platform. Loki has ported a few game titles, which have been commercially successful on the Windows platform, to Linux with great success. Further development of entertainment software for Linux will also help to increase acceptance of Linux as a preferred operating system for the typical household.

Linux already has an established reputation as a high quality platform for web servers, and file/print services in corporations. Many people are also familiar with some other Open Source/Linux applications such as the GIMP, and happily use these applications both at work and home. Some applications are just not quite ready for prime time due to issues such as file compatibility, and a lack of interest up to this point of certain commercial software vendors in porting their applications to Linux. The continued development and growth of Linux will serve to attract more companies to Linux as a primary platform for their applications. This in turn will hopefully lead to a Linux software aisle at Best Buy, CompUSA, etc., and from here the sky will be the limit.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Analyst at Sprint Paranet. He spends his time there fighting the good fight, advocating Linux to his managers and customers.





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