Can Windows 7 Back Linux Off from the Desktop?

Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, expected to ship later this year, is already being heralded as the potential savior of the (economically challenged) IT business. It could do something else, however: Blunt Linux adoption on mainstream desktops.

The Linux operating system has been available on the desktop for a long time, but it's largely been the purvey of tech geeks and developers. Now that's changing. Linux is bundled on inexpensive netbooks from several manufacturers, and the experience has been largely positive. As this InfoWorld report makes clear, desktop Linux makes sense for some consumer and business users alike, and several governments in Europe and Asia have been adopting it in their government agencies as an open standard.

When Windows 7 finally rolls out and millions of users consider upgrading from Windows XP and Vista, Linux may find itself with a golden marketing opportunity. Upgrading to a Linux flavor like Ubuntu would be relatively easy for many businesses and consumers and probably a whole lot less expensive. Of course, the other issue for Linux is apps: Are there enough of them available for the typical Windows user? And is Windows simply too embedded for a misunderstood upstart like Ubuntu to replace? On the other hand, if the global economy worsens by the time Windows 7 comes out, will tech users be looking for a bargain?

I think it's hard to get people to choose the unknown over the familiar. Even so, the stars could be aligning for Linux.

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