Canonical Takes a Closer Look at the Ubuntu Linux User Base

By | Apr 6, 2012

Midsize businesses that are considering the transition from Windows to Linux might want to take a look at the results of a recent user survey from Canonical.

Canonical, responsible for products such as Ubuntu and Launchpad, polled over 15,000 English speakers (as well as more than 1,800 Spanish speakers and 1,700 Portuguese speakers) in an effort to better understand its user base. But the answers the company received might not be what some would expect.

Ubuntu Linux has long been saddled with an unfortunate stigma characterizing the open source software as nothing more than an OS designed for hackers or "nerds." Casual computer users see the operating system as having too steep a learning curve. But the recent survey dispels these stereotypes, revealing that most users are business professionals, with almost half of those polled preferring the user experience that Linux provides.

Over two-thirds of respondents use Ubuntu Linux for professional purposes, with 12 percent of those polled using Ubuntu for work almost exclusively. The majority of respondents chose Ubuntu due to its open source label, but most users also took a liking to the operating system's "virus-free" platform. An overwhelming number of respondents also had good things to say about the OS; 96 percent of users surveyed rated their experience with the operating system as satisfactory or better.

Of course, the results are somewhat biased. Several respondents were found in places like OMG! Ubuntu!, which caters more to fans than to casual users. Nonetheless, the poll provides several useful insights into the perspectives of the Ubuntu user base.

For example, it's true that compared to Windows and even Mac, Linux can just about be considered "virus-free." Midsized businesses should find this fact appealing; workers who know little about the threats that circulate the Web are bound to, at some point, download malware from a website like Facebook or Twitter. But while these viruses can have deleterious consequences on Windows systems, Ubuntu will often be immune.

Most experienced Ubuntu users would also argue that the operating system's graphical user interface (GUI) is just as easy to use as Windows'. In fact, about a third of respondents liked Ubuntu's GUI better. The operating system also takes up fewer system resources, which can increase employee productivity by reducing lag.

But going against the grain can be expensive. In 2010, Forrester polled 774 IT decision makers at enterprises and small businesses in North America and Europe. According to ZDNet, 95 percent of respondents ran Windows in their organizations, with just 2 percent running Linux. And those numbers aren't too different from the consumer end of things. In other words, Windows has inundated the desktop and laptop market, and it's not like the operating system doesn't contain features useful to businesses. Furthermore, transitioning to Linux could mean major training expenses and workers resistant to the change.

Canonical's survey shows that Ubuntu has a lot to offer its users--but determining whether or not to switch to the OS depends on the needs of your business. Unfortunately, it's not an easy answer.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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