Is it time to exit from Windows?

The offer of pre-installed Linux by mainstream PC makers doesn't mean the open-source operating system is poised to sweep aside Microsoft’s; but while its cost advantages may never be compelling, finance departments must prepare to consider the merits of switching their own operations to Linux – and to hear a stronger case for its company-wide adoption.

Dell and Lenovo have announced that they will soon launch PCs in Europe with the open-source operating system Linux pre-installed. Dell already offers Linux machines in the US, and says its appearance in the UK is a response to rising demand as logged through its online ordering system. According to Dell, up to 30,000 buyers have already asked for pre-installed Linux.

This may reflect a recent upturn in interest, but open-source enthusiasts say it shows a demand that already existed, which just didn’t show up until big PC suppliers started raising it as an option. Linux is already widely used at the server level, and has a growing number of desktop users enthused by its capabilities as well as cost.