Linux gains popularity on the desktop

Linux is gaining momentum and emerging as a serious alternative to Windows on the desktop, according to the Linux Foundation's latest annual survey of desktop Linux users.

One indication of that is the fact that more than 20,000 people completed the survey - double the number last year. Although the results are not quite complete, the Linux Foundation is confident that the responses received so far paint an accurate picture.

Most Linux installations are to be found in small businesses and the home, but whereas in the past they were largely the tool of developers and engineers, they are now being widely used as standard PCs. Part of the reason for that is the advance of virtualisation technologies that make it possible to run Windows software and the availability of a new breed of online applications such as Google Docs.

That is not to say that Linux users are entirely happy with their lot. Most would prefer to have native software and top of the most-wanted list are Photoshop, Dreamweaver and AutoCAD.

Among Linux distros, Ubuntu is the most popular as the choice of just over half of all respondents, both for home and business use. Red Hat and Suse proved popular at work, while home users are also opting for Debian, Gentoo, Knoppix and PCLinuxOS in large numbers.

But the standout figure was the number who answered "yes" to the question, "Do you have enough confidence in Linux today to use it for mission-critical applications?"

Almost three-quarters claim they trust Linux, while a further 18.3 per cent were "pretty sure" they would be able to rely on it.

The Linux Foundation survey finishes on 30 November.