Hardware Vendors Make Their Move

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

Hardware vendors will dominate the show, with Dell Computer Corp.'s Michael Dell delivering the opening keynote address and IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based VA Linux Systems Inc. all expected to make major announcements.

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

HP will ship a developer release of Linux for its HP 9000 servers and demonstrate some key software tools from its proprietary HP-UX environment running on Linux.

Software Vendors' Strategies

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

While IBM, HP and VA Linux can use Linux to boost hardware sales, vendors without hardware businesses 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 show.

Like San Mateo, Calif.-based OpenSales Inc., 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 may see the re-emergence of the open-source operating system as a credible contender for the desktop. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Eazel Inc. will demonstrate its new desktop environment and online system update service for Linux.

In addition, Sun Microsystems Inc. will showcase StarOffice, its 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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