From the Editor In Chief

SAN MATEO (01/31/2000) - Just about everything that was ever considered to be an alternative choice to the mainstream has to one degree or another become part of the mainstream. So with that thought in mind, it is interesting to note that many of the backers of Linux will this week descend on New York, the capital of all things establishment, to promote the virtues of open-source software during LinuxWorld.

The momentum that Linux has among the general population is such that there is nobody in corporate IT who has not at least heard of it. But the conservative nature of these organizations tends to make them move slower than other segments of the population when embracing anything new.

Given that temperament, Linux has yet to gain parity with operating systems such as Windows NT and Solaris with corporate IT, but a number of factors in play will make this the year that happens.

First up is the success that ISPs and ASPs (application service providers) are having with this platform. Linux installations are growing faster than any other operating system largely because of this group of customers. ISPs and ASPs are destined to become the largest consumer of IT technology. Given that penetration, Linux has become validated as a reliable platform that you can build a business on.

The next fact that will propel Linux into the mainstream is its popularity with the next generation of IT workers, also known as kids currently in college.

Most of these students will be very familiar with the platform and will want to keep working with it after graduation. If you don't use it, they may go elsewhere for employment.

In fact, there's probably some unsanctioned Linux already running in most IT organizations. The truth of the matter is that if people have difficulty solving a problem with one tool, or if they just don't have enough money to solve all of their problems, they will get creative. So if they have a bad experience with Windows NT, odds are good that they might decide to try Linux out of desperation. Similarly, if their budget is constrained, Linux provides a simple way to create a new application using a free code that can run on an old Intel server. In addition, if you take a walk near application development teams, the odds are good that you'll find at least one developer using Linux to create applications that will run on another platform.

Finally, the barometer that tells us Linux is going mainstream is in the world of gaming. If you visit the Web sites of many of the game publishers, you'll notice something unusual: Many of them are now offering Linux versions of some of their most popular game offerings. What's driving this, of course, is that the complexity of the games being developed is moving past the capabilities of Windows for the hard-core gaming set.

None of the above developments has anything to do with a hard-core hatred of things Microsoft or a passionate belief in the nobleness of open-source code.

As they say in New York, either one of those sentiments, along with $1.50, will get you a ride on the subway.

Nature and economics abhor a vacuum. A world dominated by one or two platform choices at best is a technology vacuum, so there is plenty of room for Linux alongside Solaris and Windows NT. At the same time, too many platforms lead to chaos, so it's unlikely we'll see any other operating systems achieve mainstream status anytime soon.

In the meantime, the Linux community can look forward to life in the mainstream alongside former counterculture icons like the Rolling Stones. While that may take some getting use to, it's probably all for the best.

Got another point of View? Write to me at michael_vizard@infoworld.comWhat industries use Linux?

Linux installations span many industries.

* Software supplier/developer - 12.3 percent* Education - 11.3 percent* Telecommunications/ISP - 8.7 percent* Manufacturing - 7.2 percent* Systems/Hardware supplier - 7.2 percent* Systems Integrator/Reseller - 6.7 percent* IT consulting/other IT services - 6.2 percent* Engineering services - 5.1 percent* Professional services - 4.6 percent* Government - 4.1 percent

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