Gartner Says Linux on the Desktop Is Not a Cost-Effective Alternative for Most Enterprises Looking for Savings

Enterprises Must Weigh Total Cost of Ownership Against Migration Costs Before Any Implementation Is Considered

STAMFORD, CONN., September 9, 2003 — Linux has had success in the server market in reducing costs, but in most cases enterprises should not expect to achieve reduced costs by migrating from their Windows desktop platforms to Linux on the desktop, according to Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT and ITB).

"Many servers are dedicated to running a single application; in many cases, it has been relatively easy for enterprises to replace specific servers, such as a Web server and implement Linux," said David Smith, vice president and Gartner fellow. "However, the environment for Linux on the desktop is significantly different. Knowledge workers use PCs to run diverse combinations of applications. For those users, migration costs will be very high because all Windows applications must be replaced or rewritten."

Gartner analysts said migrating PC desktops to Linux makes sense only in a very narrow, limited range of situations. The Linux migration should be considered only if there are relatively few applications and those applications are fixed-function or low-function, such as data entry, call center or bank teller/platform automation. In those cases, the cost of migration may be low enough to justify the move to Linux.

However, before any migration plan is implemented, it is imperative that enterprises gain a full understanding of the total cost of ownership (TCO). Gartner analysts said enterprises must look beyond the initial costs and realize the full spectrum of costs that can evolve.

"Understanding the current TCO and the expected Linux TCO can help an enterprise determine the estimated migration savings," said Michael Silver, vice president and research director at Gartner. "When calculating such costs, it is important to realize that the cost of the PC and client operating system represents only a small part of the overall TCO — generally 20 percent to 30 percent — and that other costs such as labor, training and external services must be considered."

Another consideration when determining whether to migrate to Linux is comparing the costs and savings of a move to Linux with the cost and savings to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. The difference in TCO between Windows and Linux depends on which version of Windows is being considered.

"The TCO of Windows 95 is relatively high and increasing because support from Microsoft has been eliminated and support from independent software vendors and other third parties continues to wane," said Silver. "Therefore, enterprises running Windows 95 will likely see more benefits by a move to Linux than will enterprises using Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Windows 2000 and Windows XP include more modern technology than Window 95 and are generally more stable and incur lower costs."

Gartner analysts said enterprises running Windows 95 should estimate the costs and benefits of a project to upgrade its current environment to Windows XP and a project to move to Linux. Then, compare the ROI of the two alternatives before choosing a platform.

The information in this release is part of a Gartner Special Report titled Linux on the Desktop: The Whole Story. The report consists of six pieces of research, which analyze the TCO associated with migrating to Linux on the desktop. The reports also provide enterprises with TCO models to be used in determining Linux TCO. The report is available on Gartner's web site.

Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis on Linux and TCO issues during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2003, which will be held October 19-24 in Orlando, Florida. Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the IT industry's largest and most strategic conference, providing business leaders with a look at the future of IT. For more details or to register for Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2003, visit or call 1-800-778-1997. Members of the media can register for the event by contacting Maria DiMasi at 212-699-2734 or e-mailing

About Gartner:
Gartner, Inc. is the leading provider of research and analysis on the global information technology industry. Gartner serves more than 10,000 clients, including chief information officers and other senior IT executives in corporations and government agencies, as well as technology companies and the investment community. The Company focuses on delivering objective, in-depth analysis and actionable advice to enable clients to make more informed business and technology decisions. The Company's businesses consist of Gartner Intelligence, research and events for IT professionals; Gartner Executive Programs, membership programs and peer networking services; and Gartner Consulting, customized engagements with a specific emphasis on outsourcing and IT management. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, and has 3,700 associates, including more than 1,000 research analysts and consultants, in more than 75 locations worldwide. For more information, visit