Microsoft will drive Linux desktop adoption in 2007

Microsoft has ramped up its anti-piracy efforts with Windows Vista, but IDC predicts they could instead drive users to Linux.

Other Linux-related items from IDC's Top 10 Predictions for Worldwide System Infrastructure Software, 2007:
  • The use of Linux paravirtualization will be mostly sizzle -- not steak. Few users are going to substitute their current kernel with a paravirtualized kernel.
  • Windows Vista will not uplift the operating system or PC market spending dramatically, but there will be a meaningful shift of adoption favoring premium Windows Vista SKUs.
  • Virtualization and security will become focal points for vendors, who will do more to add support for virtualization and managing virtual environments to their service management offerings.
  • Software appliances will become a household word in 2007. The convergence of virtual machine technology and an initiative by tool vendors is giving birth to this new form of software packaging.

As part of a list of predictions for 2007, research firm IDC said Microsoft's client operating system anti-piracy efforts will backfire in 2007. Instead of stamping out software piracy, the campaign will drive customers toward a Linux desktop, said the Framingham, Mass.-based research firm.

The anti-piracy program, called Genuine Microsoft Software, weeds out users with unlicensed versions of Windows. When users log into the Microsoft Web page, they are prompted for an OEM license number to validate their version of Windows. If the number is accepted, users obtain access to additional Microsoft services and products, many of which are free.

It's a carrot-and-stick approach, but the program could be too effective for its own good, said Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC.

"If [a Windows user] fails to authenticate, Microsoft encourages them to go get the software legitimately by finding the right licensing key or acquiring a brand new copy," Gillen said. With the launch of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7, he said, Microsoft has redoubled these efforts.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, instead of encouraging users to obtain genuine copies of Windows, the process will cause many users to opt for a freely available Linux distribution, Gillen said. The main contributors for changing over to Linux will be price and concerns about Microsoft's licensing practices, he added.

"The validation process has been a rising tide at Microsoft; they have been slowly plugging holes where customers were getting value from an unlicensed copy of Windows," Gillen said. "With this [anti-piracy] process it has become more attractive to go somewhere else."

Since the users are not paying Microsoft for products or services, there is no financial downside for Redmond. However, there is a risk if enterprise-level customers move outright to another platform, Gillen said.

"[Microsoft] is not hurting the installed base, but they are likely to increase competitive installation instances when they cause a user to move off of a non-paid copy of Windows and the user winds up on Linux," he said.

For more information:
Centeris CEO: Managing Linux in a Windows world

2006 Spotlight: Microsoft Windows, apps versus Linux and open source

Gillen said IDC has not yet released any specific numbers or data on Windows-to-Linux migrations due to anti-piracy.

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