In last week's edition of InfoWorld, I took a close look at four of the most prominent Linux desktop distributions specifically geared for enterprise adoption. While many folks live and breath Gentoo, Mandrake, Fedora, SuSE Pro 9.1, and so forth, the distros I chose, SuSE Linux Desktop, RedHat Workstation 3, Sun's JDS, and Xandros Business Desktop, are specifically targetted at the enterprise market.
This was actually limiting. Since the focus of these distros is rather narrow, they enjoy a longer release cycle than most distributions. While this means version stability and less of a moving target for businesses, this is necessary. The price paid, of course, is currency.
The most attention, it seems, was on the sidebar discussing Linux and hardware, with an unfortunate headline for the on-line version. I've run Linux as my primary desktop for about 8 years now, and I wrote that entire story in OpenOffice.org on a Dell Latitude D800 running Fedora Core 2. In fact, that's what I'm typing on right now. Linux on this laptop is very pleasurable, but still has caveats. The nVidia graphics card is well supported, ndiswrapper is handling the Broadcom BCM94306 802.11g well, although I have had a few lockups of the bcmwl5a WinXP wrapped driver. The system very stable, but suspend-to-disk doesn't work properly.
I rarely reboot my laptops and use power management extensively, so this is an issue, especially since my elderly 800Mhz Titanium PowerBook suspends and resumes so darn fast.
The point I made in the hardware sidebar was that it's simply amazing that Linux supports as much hardware as it does, given the state of vendor participation in Linux driver development. For server-class hardware, there's generally better driver availability and functionality, but for desktop and laptop hardware, it can be a struggle.
I hope that more hardware vendors take a page from nVidia, 3Ware and other vendors that actively support Linux. I especially hope that Dell and HP, two vendors that have solid Linux support for server-class hardware, pony up some dedicated Linux drivers for their desktop and laptop products. At the very least, applying some resources to existing open-source driver initiatives would be a significant step in the right direction.