Of course, no office that depended on Windows desktop applications beyond productivity software would consider such a solution. Plus, there will always be file compatibility problems -- documents with special formatting created on Microsoft Office apps may not display or print exactly as they should using Office alternatives and vice versa. (And of course, there's the biggest showstopper of all, when users give you a look that says: "What is this?!")
But as a generic solution for generic office needs, the cost seems positively irresistible compared to the license-heavy Microsoft/VMware version of desktop virtualization. In fact, if I were starting a small business, I'd consider that or a cloud-based solution like Google Docs or Zoho before I'd seriously contemplate paying $400 or $500 per user for Windows and Office, whether or not all that Microsoft stuff was wrapped into a desktop virtualization solution.
Even at the corporate level, a fundamental shift may be occurring. Last month I spoke about the impact of open source on IBM customers with Bob Picciano, general manager of worldwide software sales. He cut right to the chase: "If you're asking me whether Microsoft is a lot less relevant now, the answer is absolutely yes."
So if you're already bound and determined to escape Microsoft's clutches, and the benefits of server-based computing sound attractive, it's worth considering. As isolated solutions, desktop Linux and desktop virtualization have major shortcomings; together they have the potential to be a stronger Microsoft alternative. And an open source desktop virtualization solution might be better than handing the family jewels to Google Apps. After all, before long, Google may be every bit as big as Microsoft.
This article, "Can desktop virtualization save desktop Linux?" originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at infoworldmobile.com.