No one in their right mind believes that desktop Linux will replace Windows on business desktops overnight. Not with a current overall market share of 1 percent (according to the latest Wikipedia stats).
But might desktop Linux take hold gradually? In "Desktop Linux: Why it may have lost its chance," Neil McAllister dismisses that possibility. "This kind of hybrid environment requires IT to manage two OSes at the same time -- including user support, software updates, security, backups, and interoperability between the systems. And that drives up support costs." His other main objection is more obvious: Those who use desktop Linux are shut out of Windows applications.
[ Neil McAllister once wrote a blog devoted to open source, but despite his best efforts, he can't find a good reason for enterprises to adopt desktop Linux. On the other hand, InfoWorld executive editor Galen Gruman was pleasantly surprised by Unbuntu 8.1. ]
But McAllister concludes on a more sanguine note: Adoption could accelerate as applications and data migrate to the cloud and away from the whole notion of a desktop PC. Running Firefox on Linux and Firefox on Windows is the same user experience.
So why not get a little jumpstart on that future scenario? Most businesses already maintain a "hybrid" environment, thanks to the Mac (not to mention Vista). Whether you run screaming from a new support burden or decide to experiment with desktop Linux in a serious way depends on several factors: