Linux and the Enterprise Desktop: Where Are We Today?

Desktop Linux is maturing, and many organizations are taking notice.
San Diego Schools: Addressing the Digital Divide

At 135,000 students, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) is the country's eighth largest. During each school day, around 100,000 of those students in grades 3–12 use a Lenovo R-Series ThinkPad laptop running SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop provided by the district as a learning tool. Dubbed the “Always-On Learning Initiative”, the purpose of the program is to promote academic success by giving all students access to the tools they'll need to learn, live and work successfully in the modern world. The name Always-On comes from the fact that students have access to a wireless network anywhere and at all times throughout the district.

Choosing Linux over other operating systems offers several advantages to SDUSD. First, the lower cost of Linux allows SDUSD to reach more students with fewer resources. By reaching more students, the chronic problem of a digital divide between wealthier and poorer students can be addressed. Second, after comparing its options, SDUSD determined that Linux was easier to scale and support, and more types of devices could be utilized. Finally, SDUSD sees that providing a laptop to everyone has great motivational and learning benefits for both teachers and students. Deputy Superintendent Geno Flores said that “students are more interested in and excited about their classroom work” thanks to the program.

Early Adopters Move Linux Forward

The small sample of case studies above illustrate how Linux is fully ready to start taking over more desktops in companies, nonprofits and government offices worldwide. Although we long have been optimistic that Linux's day of glory would come sooner, our 20/20 hindsight allows us to grasp that usability and features had to be improved to meet the needs of most workers. Fortunately, the distribution providers have realized this fact and invested heavily in removing barriers to Linux implementation. Certainly, the maturation of virtualization has helped as well. In addition, the early adopters, whose stories are told here, have helped all of us by implementing Linux despite some unknowns and moved it forward. Now, more-conservative organizations can observe these examples and learn from their experiences, both positive and negative. So our thanks go out to Peugeot, Europcar, Howard County Library, Mosaic, San Diego Schools and the other desktop Linux pioneers for implementing Linux on a large scale and helping make it better. In a few years, you should be able to look back and be amazed at what you started.

James Gray is Linux Journal Products Editor and a graduate student in environmental science and management at Michigan State University. A Linux enthusiast since the mid-1990s, he currently resides in Lansing, Michigan, with his wife and cats.

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James Gray is Products Editor for Linux Journal

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