COMDEX - Low cost gives Linux Global appeal, say supporters

The Linux operating system is a more practical solution than proprietary operating systems, especially in developing countries, its supporters claimed in a panel discussion about the open source platform at Comdex earlier this week.

In places like China and Vietnam, low wages mean that some people can't afford brand new machines or proprietary operating systems such as Microsoft Windows. However, they can afford older, used machines, Jon "maddog" Hall of non-profit organisation Linux International said at the International Impact of Linux panel discussion.

"Unfortunately many of these systems aren't powerful enough to run Windows Me, or even Windows You," he joked, but they do have enough power to run Linux.

For large corporations, the price factor grows even more important, according to Miguel de Icaza, founder and president of Linux application vendor Helix Code. "If you're purchasing a million computers, it can add up to $US700 million in licensing fees" with certain operating systems, he said. Numerous flavours of Linux can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet.

And it's situations such as these that are most important to the Finnish creator of the operating system, Linus Torvalds. "All these people are finally making their own decisions, that is more important than IBM announcing that they have started selling Linux servers in Japan."

"For Linux, the US is actually an underdeveloped country. There are many countries where Linux is more prevalent than here," said Dirk Hohndel, chief technology officer for SuSE GmbH which distributes a version of the operating system. "Suddenly underdeveloped countries have the ability to compete with industrialised countries, and all they need is expertise."

Start-up companies don't have to worry about the legacy software problems established companies face - making life easier for businesses in areas where the Internet culture has only recently taken root.

"In places in Asia, they're able to say 'I'm creating a new ISP' and do not have to build around existing operating systems," added Peter Beckman, director of TurboLabs, the research and development arm of TurboLinux. "Using Linux also provides them with a way to tap into an existing talent pool", because of the open source model and the large Linux community on the Internet.

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