"A penguin once took a vacation
From the grind of commoditization:
'My effort's best spent
With an enterprise bent;
I'll see you down at the next station!'"
-- "Tux, the Magic Penguin," by Anders Bylund, 10 minutes ago

Two of the biggest names in the world of Linux and open-source software picked the same day to back off their designs on a new world order in consumer computing.

According to the Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) website, the Linux veteran has "no plans to create a traditional desktop product for the consumer market in the foreseeable future." At the same time, Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) CEO Ron Hovsepian spoke to the press at the opening of a new engineering center in India, saying that "The market for the desktop for the next three to five years is mainly enterprise-related."

Despite the relatively slow uptake of Windows Vista, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) remains the player to beat in consumer-level operating systems. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is trying to sell some Linux-based computers with a certain Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) flavor to them, but took that effort out of its physical stores rather quickly. The systems are still available online, but the average Joe and Jill won't exactly flock to that offering.

Linux has been around for the better part of two decades now, and it's gaining steam in the corporate computing space. Luring consumers into the open arms of that friendly penguin is proving much harder. "The desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today's Linux desktops simply don't provide a practical alternative," says Red Hat. "History is littered with example efforts that have either failed outright, are stalled, or are run as charities."

I can understand if the publicly traded Linux vendors don't want to emulate that particular model. Maybe it's best to let the open-source community do its thing awhile longer, getting the desktop closer to the ideal of being easy to understand and instantly usable to any technophobe. The Ubuntu gang is working on it, alongside the Gnome and KDE projects. It'll be easy enough to make a marketing push once the technology matures enough, devoting those resources to the enterprise sector in the meantime.

Godspeed, Tux. See you down the road, and in the data center.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is a poet, but is unaware of it.