Experiencing Linux Desktop in a Microsoft Shop

I am always looking at other systems to see if they make sense for my customers.  Years ago when Novell had 65% or more of the market I was convinced very early that Microsoft had them beaten badly and they were in denial.  We all know how that turned out.  In the mean time I have watched Linux and the Open Source world and thin clients, etc. to see if there was going to be a successor to the Microsoft juggernaut.  So far no likely candidate surfaced.  (teaser: I have an upcoming article that looks at a possible strong competitive candidate for the next throne).
In the mean time I recently decided to try installing a variant of Linux for the desktop and see how well it worked.  In the past you needed to know too much about kernel recompilation for things as simple as adding programs but I had heard that this had changed dramatically. 
My experience, early and limited as yet, says that the rumors are right.  The Ubuntu version of Linux at least is by far better than I have seen any variant of Unix up to now.  The installation was quite easy and seemed to do everything on it’s own.  Once the user interface came up it was fairly easy to start finding programs and features that had loaded with the system.  Things were decidedly in different places.  For those people who crave certainty this would not have been a happy experience but I was easily able to find most features, and certainly to get on the internet and work my way around.  Getting a video from youtube presented my first challenge as I had to get the right video player, that took a few minutes of poking around but nothing I couldn’t handle.  You might want to know why I cared about Youtube being a business guy, it was simply the easiest way to find out if I could get to videos.  Getting RealPlayer free version for Linux was a little more “interesting” but again after I clicked on a few things that looked like installers I eventually got it loaded.  To be honest I’m not clear exactly how but that’s not that much different than some windows apps. 
I have not, on the other hand, been able to set up email even though I know others who are using it successfully.  Outlook Web Access works fine though.  VPN is another item that I have not figured out even though this is very easy in windows.  I do have the system running in a Virtual Machine which is probably causing some of the confusion, especially for instance trying to set up wireless. 
All and all the experience is very pleasing.  Now here are the downsides I’ve found so far.  First when you bring in new employees they are not going to know this interface, you will have to train EVERYONE.  Second, if you depend on Sharepoint as we do I do not have a way to interface with Sharepoint easily since only I.E. knows about it.  Firefox will not do all I need Sharepoint to do and neither will the word processor and spreadsheet.  You could manually save stuff in the file system then upload to sharepoint but that would negate much of the value. 
Finally the plethora of Linux versions and subversions is a deterrent to using the system in a small business.  The training and support of your particular version would put a strain on most organizations.
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