Ubuntu Linux on the desktop in the Enterprise


In 2006 I was the Head of Global Banking Technology and CTO for Thailand at GE Capital. Part of my job was — and still is — to understand different technologies and see how these could be used in a corporate context.

One question was/is always around optimizing and driving productivity around the desktop. Is there a better way for users? Can we increase the productivity for provisioning and users? Can we better reuse older hardware or adopt new technologies differently?

I tried to install Ubuntu Linux on my work Laptop. At the time, it was more difficult than nowadays, as many hardware vendors produce drivers only for MS Windows. Yet it did work and was rather refreshing. In effect all features worked almost out of the Box: Integration into Active Directory, E-Mail App linking into Exchange, and OpenOffice as productivity suit.

This followed by segmenting the user base across the firm and based upon the categorization (low end, medium, and power users), we would deploy OpenOffice (free and open source productivity suit), to all users with limited users. We had low end users, who would only get a thin client or older hardware with thin operating systems like Linux, Wyse, etc. on it. The user would use all applications through a web browser – inclusive email, if any were given.

Naturally, we would create local language documentation and online training. This was a relatively easy and very effective way of ‘upgrading’ users. Stability of desktops, security threats, and updates were all easier to do – customer image generation was also very easy to setup.


At Cisco Systems, one can choose between Windows, MacOS, or Linux OS. Self service support would be given based on Wiki’s and user groups. It worked very successful, as I was able to see a lot of staff adopting MacOS in the self service mode, even staff not familiar with tools and configurations.

Right now, I am still experimenting!

I am using Macintosh equally at home – MacMini and a MacBookPro. MacOS has a wide range of applications and I prefer using Apple’s Office Suite – iWorks (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) over MS Office, as it also integrates well with my iPad and iPhone.

On top, I am using a PC with Ubuntu Desktop Linux installed, to have a playground for multiple applications and better understanding of technologies — visualizations, Big Data, Big Analytics, etc.

Across the different technologies areas, a lot of technology innovation comes out of the open source world (Java, Service, Big Data, Operating Systems, etc.) and are often absorbed by software firms. From that perspective it is good, to have an opportunity to try out these open source packages, as well as, reading up on the community pages. It gives deeper insights and allows for better business decisions (regardless whether these are circulating across open source or commercial source).

My key requirement is a sandbox like computer environment I can experience new technologies with it, to input into my professional life.

So I downloaded the Ubuntu Linux Operating System, followed an guide on the same web site to create a Bootable USB Drive — a small Windows app does this — and booted my Desktop with it. It took 20 Minutes and my Computer had Ubuntu installed and all working.

I actually like working on Ubuntu a lot. It is very fast and has a very good app store. All the application I need are free.

Key applications are Chrome Browser, Firefox, Skype, Spotify, Steam (the gaming platform), PyCharm (Pythong development environment), Twitter client, Picture tool, Visualisation tool (VirtualBox), Open Office/Libre Office free suite and integrated OS Tools (Picture Viewer, Chat, EMail, Movie player, etc.).

Cloud providers are having a set of tools, to allow integration with DropBox, Google Drive, and of course browser based access of Google Apps, and Apple’s iCloud (with Apple’s Office Apps in the cloud). Given that I am using privately Apple and Google Apps for a long time, I don’t have the migration issues with moving files or changing applications.

Business applications should either be browser based or run as apps on Android or iOS or all of this together. Linux runs on most Desktop and Laptop hardware. It is easy and efficient on old hardware. Integration into a mixed Microsoft, Apple, iOS, and Android environment is easy. Linux can integrate into the so called Microsoft Domain and Exchange servers and has Management tools.

I would highly recommend corporations to consider Linux on the Desktop and Laptop, to drive out cost and complexity.

A word on the Bring Your Own Desktop BYOD Strategies.

They often assume a Windows Desktop will be streamed via tools from a Service — a window on your desktop which in effect acts as a remote sandbox for business applications. For the amount of money that takes, I would strongly feel a Google Apps, OpenOffice, and Browser access combo would drive more efficiency for less cost.

Just giving a different point of view.