Invasion of The Suits

LONDON (06/08/2000) - At least one of the problems with getting Linux into the corporate world is image. What pinstriped, white-shirted, blue-tied, well coiffed, city type would get involved with an OS and related software whose advocates and developers look like a bunch of bearded, long-haired, jeans and T-shirt clad, unreconstructed hippies?

That stereotyped image of the Linux brigade was epitomized June 1 and 2 at Linux Expo 2000 in London by Alan Cox, one of the Linux world's gods. As the first speaker, he appeared for all the world as if he'd stepped out of a '60s time warp.

Nevertheless, only two or three other hippies were present. The rest appeared to be middle and upper management types, ranging in age from their mid-twenties to at least their mid-sixties.

The conference may have had an overwhelming IBM feel and look but, as IBM European marketing manager Adam Jollans explains, looks can be deceiving. "As far as IBM not being the long-haired, bearded, anarchist, hippie stereotype you'd think of being involved in Linux, they're there," he says. "They're just hidden inside the development labs. And they're the people who actually, in the backroom, have done the work like developing Linux for the System 390, developing the first version of Db2 for Linux without their bosses knowing and then suddenly we've picked up on them."

But I suspect it has more to do with the message presented than the image.

There's the excitement of a new OS that's taking the world by storm. Veteran conference goers were comparing the atmosphere at the conference and expo to that of shows in the early PC era of the early '80s.

"If you look at this show here today, there's a terrific buzz at the place," Jollans says. "This is a buzz we haven't seen in many years in the UK computer industry since the early days of the PC. And so there's a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of interest, and a lot more companies here plainly to look at it. Last year the big companies were here in anoraks to find out what Linux is all about. Now they're back to really seriously look at it."

And the excitement began right on cue. At 9:30, just as it was time for Cox to mount the podium, the moderator announced that Cox and other speakers would be delayed due to a bomb explosion in the city.

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