Even Linux-loving firms only deploy it to one-fifth of employees

In a new survey, 70 percent cited lower cost as the main reason for deploying Linux; power-using office workers, mobile professionals, and creative types were least likely to accept Linux

Half of the businesses that have deployed Linux on the desktop have rolled it out to less than 20 percent of their workers due to perceived and real obstacles, according to a survey released by U.K. analyst firm, Freeform Dynamics.

Power-using office workers, mobile professionals, and creative types such as graphic designers were the least likely to accept Linux on their PCs, according to Freeform.

[ Check out the Open Source topic center for more on Linux. | Keep up on the day's tech news headlines with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter and InfoWorld Daily podcast. ]

On the other hand, one-fifth of Linux-adopting companies have rolled it out to 80 percent or more of their employees, according to the survey which is sponsored by longtime Linux supporter IBM.

Freeform surveyed 1,275 IT professionals in April, of whom 90 percent had first-hand experience rolling out Linux at a company. Because of its sample, Freeform cautions that its statistics do not represent most companies, nor do they imply any major gain by Linux on the desktop.

Linux's overall share of desktops remains about 1 percent, according to figures released last month by Net Applications.

IBM hopes to boost that. With Ubuntu Linux vendor Canonical, it offers a "Microsoft-free" desktop package that includes its Lotus desktop applications.

According to the survey, 70 percent of those deploying Linux inside businesses cited lower cost as the main reason. Rather than the price of licensing Microsoft's Windows for enterprises, more than half of respondents cited the ease of securing Linux PCs as the main reason for its lower cost relative to Windows.

Respondents also cited more flexible deployment of Linux as well as less need for support and administration.

But there are many obstacles to deploying Linux, according to respondents: internal politics, user resistance to switching from Windows, and the lack of compatible software for Linux were all cited as major roadblocks by more than half of those surveyed.

While employees "might occasionally moan and groan about Windows, it is an environment they are used to which largely does the job, and the fear is that any change will be painful and distracting," according to Freeform. "There is also the question of consistency between the work environment and the software used at home, which is overwhelmingly Windows based. Against this background, the Linux option is sometimes considered to be the 'techie' alternative which, even without any direct experience, is often dismissed as not being appropriate for normal users."

Freeform concludes that the best strategy is limited rollouts of Linux targeted at the employee populations most likely to accept the open-source operating system.

Which populations? Developers and IT pros can handle the transition to Linux the easiest, according to the surveyed, followed by general office workers.

For other employees, "be prepared, however, to find that it is simply not cost-effective to switch some users from Windows, either from an IT or business perspective," the firm wrote.

This story, "Even Linux-loving firms only deploy it to one-fifth of employees" was originally published by Computerworld.