On to the Evolution mail client. I hate Outlook Web Access, so I was looking forward to a nice little email client, which by all accounts Evolution was. Supposedly, if you chose Microsoft Exchange as the server type, all you needed to do was enter the username, OWA server URL, and password.
Oops! "Unknown error." I checked the Gnome.org documentation for Evolution and it wasn't much help. Then I started wading into the Ubuntu forums, where, along with hashing over Evolution troubleshooting, a number of people in the Ubuntu community didn't seem to like 10.10 very much at all. It had issues -- lots of them. Many people, apparently, had reverted to version 10.04. Gulp.
The business proposition
I could go on, from the notorious difficulty of installing new applications to broken links all over the online documentation, but none of this was unexpected. Ubuntu is a living, breathing product of its community, so of course it's in constant flux. Despite the rough edges, I found myself liking the latest iteration of the product a lot.
Remember, though, that the point of my mini-experiment was to compare Ubuntu and Chrome OS as business solutions.
It almost goes without saying that I wouldn't unleash Ubuntu on a bunch of unsuspecting users. It's quirky enough to require training -- not only on the operating system, but on Oracle OpenOffice (which has its own baggage) -- and even with that users could get into trouble pretty easily. Not so with Chrome OS -- anyone can use a browser, and Web apps tend to be simple and goof-proof by nature.
I suppose you could preconfigure Ubuntu images and lock users out of changes that could cause problems, and no doubt paid support from Canonical would help immensely. But overall, training included, could you justify the time and effort?
The next phase of business computing is all about reducing the cost of ownership for client systems, not increasing it. Yes, we would all like to get out from under Microsoft Windows and Office licensing costs, but the endpoint security and logistical hassles of maintaining Windows are just as onerous. Ubuntu solves the security problem, but keeping users happy and productive would be quite a task.
I'm well aware that Chrome OS (which is still in early beta) and desktop Linux are not the only possible successors to today's Windows desktop; not just the Mac, but VDI comes to mind. I also know that, for many, the biggest problem of all with Chrome OS is the idea of ceding control to a cloud service. Nonetheless, if I were making the decision, I would be more inclined to outfit light-duty users with Chrome OS than with Ubuntu.
This article, "Windows alternatives: Chrome OS or Ubuntu?," 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.