If you'd asked me as recently as three years ago whether Linux was ready to replace Windows on the 5MB desktop, I'd have said no. Even Linux desktops like Lindows or Xandros, which represent huge steps forward in usability, just didn't compare with Windows at that time, especially for low-tech employees who'd been using Windows for most of their working careers. That's no longer the case. The Novell SUSE Enterprise Desktop, Red Hat's Fedora Core 8, and even the new Xandros Business Desktop eas¬ily rival Windows and Mac OS in polish and reliability. Easier hardware recogni¬tion, software installation, and network¬ing with Windows servers all set these new distros apart. And, last, there's Open Office.
The new version of Open Office isn't a match for Microsoft Office 2007, but it's still more than enough for the average small-business worker. Combine Open¬Office with the Evolution mail client and the Firefox Web browser and you'll get a stable work environment that can read and send files in a Microsoft Office for¬mat-all free. Add that into your Linux cost comparison and it's going to look great next to all those Microsoft client license costs.
Even today, Linux won't be all things to all people. In fact, most 5MBs that fol¬low these steps will wind up with a mixed environment rather than all-Linux or all-Windows. But the point isn't to move from one operating system to another. The idea is to use the best tool in the tool¬box for any particular task. That includes functionality, interoperability and, yes, cost. Keep that attitude at the forefront of your Linux thinking and you'll find plenty of ways to take advantage of the Penguin.