The idea that Linux is free and companies can save a lot of money by switching is a myth, he adds, one of many myths surrounding Linux deployment. "This has been a typical understanding, but a lot of organizations that have explored that have found that there's more to it," he says.
As a result, Gartner hasn't been seeing much interest in switching to Linux on the desktop, he says. "We get a lot more questions about switching to Macs than switching to Linux at this point, even though Macs are more expensive."
There has been more interest in open source software and operating systems in Europe and Latin America, Silver says. "But even that has been tapering off."
But the single biggest disadvantage Linux has on the desktop is in applications, says Patrick Gray, president of business strategy consultancy Prevoyance Group.
"Traditionally, Linux has been a bit more difficult to install, use, and manage, but much of that has been assuaged with variants like Ubuntu," he says. "But despite narrowing the usability gap, Linux still lacks many commercial-grade applications."
Where substitutes are available, he adds, most are not supported, or don't have the full feature sets of the commercial variants.
Plus, most professionals tend to be familiar with the leading commercial software products for the work that they do -- the open source alternatives may require additional training, or cause productivity problems.
"While Linux is free, the cost of a large company to train users, and support these applications, will likely offset the software licensing expense [of Windows]," Gray says.
"The reason isn't security, usability or any other technology shortcoming," confirmed Mark Hinkle, director of the cloud computing community at Citrix Systems. "The inhibitor for adoption is applications."
Under Linux, he says, users can check their email, browse the Web, and use an office suite. "The problem is that things like custom billing apps, SAP, desktop productivity apps from Adobe and industry-specific apps are developed solely for the Windows desktop," he says.
Many applications are already moving to a cloud-based or browser-based delivery model, he adds. Those apps can run on any operating system with a browser, or on any smart mobile device. At that point, companies can start looking at Linux more seriously.
"Until then, Linux adoption on the desktop will be stifled."
According to Gartner's Silver, a typical organization will have one application for every 10 users, and, today, about half of those applications require the Windows operating system.
"That percentage has been declining, but still, it's pretty high," Silver says. "So if I have 10,000 users, and 1,000 applications, 500 of those applications will need Windows to run."
One intermediary solution, says Citrix' Hinkle, is to run a virtualized version of Windows on top of Linux, such as with Citrix XenClient or VMware, or use remote desktops such as Citrix XenDesktop, for those users who need specific Windows applications. "For example, the Google Chrome Netbooks complemented with apps redisplayed from a Citrix XenApp installation could be a very interesting solution for a number of users."
Virtual desktops can also be used to provide access to legacy apps for users of smart mobile devices, as well.