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Linux May Not Lead to Savings

Linux, the open source technology, has traditionally made sense for cash-strapped businesses with huge expense problems and those that are already running lean and looking to save more. But researchers at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. caution that a free operating system does not always add up to lower bills.

Gartner says that while Linux is a wise choice for more central computer servers, businesses might be better off keeping Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp.'s Windows on their workers' desktop machines.

The reason? Servers are often dedicated to performing a single function, but office PCs do a lot of things, including running custom, Windows-based applications. Those applications have to be rewritten, a potentially costly endeavor, if a business switches to Linux for desktop PCs.

Gartner analyst Michael Silver says that many businesses are better off merely upgrading to newer editions of Windows, which tend to be more stable and crash less frequently-qualities Linux boasts, as well. Companies should opt for Linux mainly on desktops used for limited functions, such as data entry, Silver says.

For now, Linux is used in a small percentage of desktop computers worldwide.