Linux on the desktop is close to being a mass market option and could unseat MacOS as the second operating system of choice, according to a report by the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
Projects such as KDE, Gnome, OpenOffice and Mozilla have been recognised as important milestones in the rebirth of the Linux desktop.
While it is generally conceded that much work remains to be done, the OSAF claims that desktop Linux is now "good enough" for significant classes of users.
The report said that if the current interest by the public sector in open source persists, Linux could achieve a market share of as much as 10 per cent over the next four years.
The key remaining task now is to convince buyers to consider a Linux desktop on its merits.
"Desktop Linux is no longer a technical challenge - it's a marketing challenge," said Bart Decrem, author of the report.
Although initial deployments of Linux on the desktop will focus largely on highly technical workers, students and transactional workers, the public sector - especially outside of the US - will also be a major driver of desktop Linux adoption.
Sizeable deployments, ranging for 14,000 government desktops in Munich to 80,000 PCs for students in Spain, are already underway, the report said.
"Our clients are not asking us to replace all of their Windows desktops. They're asking us to help them figure out how they can reduce the number of Windows desktops," said Mitch Kapor, founder and chair of OSAF.
Linux is already in use by millions of people around the world, and is likely to find a home on tens of millions of desktops over the next few years, outpacing MacOS as the number two desktop operating system.
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