Key Hardware Vendors Tightening Linux Embrace

Linux is expected to receive another major boost next week when several key hardware vendors step up their support for the open-source operating system at the LinuxWorld conference in San Jose.

In fact, hardware vendors will likely dominate the show. Dell ComputerCEO Michael Dell is scheduled to deliver the opening keynote address, and IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sunnyvale, California.-based VA Linux Systemsall are due to make major Linux-related announcements.

While IBM and, to a lesser extent, Dell have increasingly been profiling themselves as big Linux players over the past two years, HP's support has been more low-key thus far. That's expected to change at LinuxWorld, where the company plans to make a major commitment to supporting the operating system across virtually all its product lines.

As part of its announcement, HP will ship a developer's release of Linux for its HP 9000 servers and demonstrate some key software tools from its HP-UX version of Unix running on the open-source operating system.

In what many observers say may be one of LinuxWorld's most significant news items, meanwhile, VA Linux is expected to announce a new service to preinstall applications on Linux systems.

While IBM, HP and VA Linux can use Linux to boost their hardware sales, vendors that don't sell computers are experimenting with other business models in order to cash in on the success of open-source software.

"Many people have downloaded our software [for free], and we'll never even hear from them," said Jim Capp, president and CEO of Harrisburg, Pa.-based Anteil Inc., which is demonstrating its open-source customer relationship management software at the conference.

Like San Mateo, Calif.-based OpenSales, which is showcasing its open-source e-commerce server, Anteil plans to give away software to boost its user base and then make money selling customization and systems integration services.

The show also may see the re-emergence of Linux as a credible contender for the desktop. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Eazel will demonstrate its new desktop environment and online system update service for Linux. In addition, Sun Microsystems Inc. will showcase StarOffice, its personal productivity suite for Linux, Windows and Unix.

"The combination of Eazel, StarOffice and some other tools would make laptops running Linux really attractive," said Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston.

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