Years back, I was very interested in Linux as a desktop OS. Red Hat was my first choice, but I moved on to Caldera, then Ubuntu. I installed it, played around a bit, downloaded some applications to try and mimic my Windows OS, get bored, and moved back to Windows.
I repeated this exploration every few years to confirm that Windows still rules the desktop world. I've also played with Google's Chrome OS on a Chromebook, and I like it -- but not so much that I would switch. For better or for worse, I'm a Windows guy. No doubt many of you are as well.
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But all the angst around the end of support from Microsoft for Windows XP has resurrected the question of whether Linux is a viable desktop option for those who simply don't want to go from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8. Personally, I understand not wanting to move yourself or your users to Windows 8. Even Microsoft seems to have realized the switch to the Metro UI was too fast (and we should see a better endeavor with Windows 9).
But there is no legitimate reason to avoid Windows 7. Aside from the small visual adjustment of a Start orb instead of a Start button, the UI transition is practically invsible. And you get a ton of really cool security enhancements and feature upgrades. Users shouldn't balk at that move.
Nevertheless, I see a lot of pitches for Linux -- Zorin, Ubuntu, Mint -- as the better path for those leaving Windows XP. I'm sorry, but your users will hate you if you dump a Linux system on them after years of working with XP. Just because you (or your company) has been too cheap to upgrade to modern Windows doesn't mean your people haven't been buying new PCs at home. Many of them are already Windows 7- (or even 8-) savvy, and giving them a Linux PC won't go smoothly.
It's true that many of the modern Linux OSes today are cooler than XP, but if you think that users haven't seen a new Windows OS in the last 10 years, you're wrong. Trust me, they have. Their frame of comparative reference isn't XP, but Windows 7 and perhaps Windows 8 or Mac OS X.
From an enterprise perspective, the key argument against Linux is the lack of Active Directory integration. However, there are tools like Samba (an open source project for Windows/Linux integration) and Winbind (a daemon that runs on Samba clients) that can help authenticate users with ActiveDirectory credentials. But you still can't apply group policies to Linux PCs, and there's no email client for Linux that's compatible with Exchange Server 2007 or later; you're stuck with MAPI connections. Once again, Windows rules the enterprise.
Moving to Linux also means giving up most business software you and your users know. Mac users have struggled with this dilemma for decades, but they have a much wider variety of business software options than Linux users do. If you're struggling with software parity for Macs, see what happens when you bring in Linux.
You might be thinking that one of the new Android PCs might be the way to go for people who need to leave XP but don't want Windows 7 or 8. Maybe -- there's good Exchange and third-party Active Directory support and some decent productivity apps for Android, but the app options drop precipitously after that.
And forget about the familiar multiwindow work style. It might make sense for Google to get the Chromebook and Android OS teams together to create one solution if the plan is to put Android on the desktop, but the truth is that "one OS to unite them all" hasn't worked out so well for Microsoft, and I'm not sure Google would do better. By contrast, Apple has wisely kept its OS and iOS separate. I love Windows 8 on my tablet but prefer Windows 7 on my desktop: two systems, two OSes.
When your XP users come in and see their new computer running Windows 7 (or 8) with Office 2013, they might be nervous, and they might need some training to get up to speed with 10 years of Windows development. But they will not be completely lost. They will, however, be lost if you switch them to any other operating system: OS X, Linux, Chrome OS, Android OS, or whatever.
Furthermore, the hoops you'll have to jump through to get those OSes integrated into your enterprise will have you regret the day you wanted to break free from the Microsoft mothership. Face it: It's not "you will be assimilated." You already have been assimilated. Admit it, and move on.
This story, "You want to replace Windows XP with Linux? Seriously?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.