Avert a disaster? Plan on it happening
HP list starts to list toward history

Why is Windows important, you say?

The platform most often picked to replace HP 3000 missions? That would be Windows, thanks to the "billions and billions," as Carl Sagan would say, of Windows desktops out there.

But what if that sea of piano-note-laden splash screens didn't surge up to sing "Microsoft?" Supposing the trend tilted toward Linux on desktops? How would the 3000-to-Windows migration choice measure up, if Linux gets critical mass on desktops, too?

Linux already powers much of the Internet. HP 3000 experts are reaching out to the Little Penguin That Could for migration server choices, but not anywhere near as often as HP's Unix, or Windows. HP's worldwide director of open-source and Linux marketing, Doug Small, said that the mass will become as critical as your missions for Linux on desks. This year, too.

"Of course," you say, "he's the director of marketing for HP's Linux. What else would he say?" The real question is what will Small do. In the face of a more complex and largely-on-the-sidelines Vista release, HP is likely to release a retail line of PCs bundled with Linux desktop operating systems. HP is already pre-loading Linux on desktops for 37 Latin American countries. (Who knew there were so many?) Retail. Talk about institutionalizing Linux in customers' minds.

It's a stretch to imagine that 100 million Windows desktops will roll to Linux in a hurry. But consider that a manager of HP 3000s and the desktops must roll these systems over every three years, to keep up with Windows' demands. On any of those rolls, a low-cost, high-function Linux could take over. Microsoft knows this, and markets against Linux with vigor approaching desperation.

Lots of programming savvy has built up in the 3000 community over the past 10 years. This savvy, and the ability to hire Windows experts cheaply, is more likely to keep the Microsoft mantra on the lips of your community. More likely than whatever HP will be bundling.

But that is a technical argument, the kind that HP 3000 managers, migrating or not, lost over and over during the past decade. Trends and buzz often rule top management decisions. For the 3000 director who can offer a lower-cost desktop across hundreds of desks, perhaps a big bonus awaits.

HP just announced it will be buying Neoware. For $214 million, HP will get a company provides thin-client systems. DesktopLinux.com says "HP is doing this because it intends to accelerate the growth of HP's thin-client business by boosting its Linux client software."

Yes, because Hewlett-Packard wants more market share of PC desktops. Which means fewer Microsoft outposts, making Windows look like a backward-facing choice to some decision makers. Is that you, who are now considering how safe a bet Windows appears?