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Linux taking off – and being taken off
"More than two dozen nations are considering proposals to promote or require the use of Linux in government offices" according to Erwin Gillich, deputy head of the city of Vienna's information technology unit, which is likely to choose Linux over Windows on 15,000 desktops. So, who are these nations, asks Robin Bloor of Bloor Research.
Well, they include Japan, China and South Korea who are collaborating over a plan to "embrace alternative operating systems" to Microsoft - which means Linux. It includes India which sees Linux as aiding its fast growing software industry to become less dependent on US and European outsourcing and it includes Brazil where President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is finalizing a policy recommending that federal ministries, agencies and state enterprises install open-source software. (The goal is for 80% of government computers bought next year to feature open-source software). As well as Brazil you can add most of South America, including Peru where the government publicly dismissed a claim by Microsoft that governments that back open source were providing an unfair subsidy.
In Pakistan 50,000 low cost computers will be installed in schools and colleges all over Pakistan (for less than $100 each) that use GNU/Linux. Pakistan is also considering the use of StarOffice office. Salman Ansari, an advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology says "Don't be surprised if we become the first country in the world to say that all (government-run) services are going to be GNU/Linux based".
In Thailand, the SchoolNet experiment that seeks to provide computer universal access to teachers and students in schools is using GNU/Linux. In Malaysia government bodies are studying the feasibility of developing Linux to become a "national operating system" similar to the Red Flag Linux project in China. Everywhere you look, government interest in Linux is growing.
Linux is growing in the commercial market too. IDC is predicting that this year the number of new Linux servers will equal or possibly surpass the number of new Windows 2000 servers. Recent Linux wins include two very significant prizes; Reuters chose to put its Market Data System on Linux (supposedly generating $200 million in sales of services and server hardware in the next 5 years) and Ford moved to Linux with a series of server purchases.
This brings me to SCO and its CEO Darl McBride, who proclaimed in his open letter to the Open Source community "If the Open Source community wants its products to be accepted by enterprise companies, the community itself must follow the rules and procedures that govern mainstream society." It may have slipped Darl's notice but Linux already is accepted by a whole swathe of enterprise companies, in a big way.
Apropos of which, there is an interesting offering by SCO in its UnixWare 7, which indicates that SCO acknowledges this - a Linux Kernel Personality (LKP). This enables SCO's UnixWare to run Linux applications. In respect of this SCO offering, there is an interesting comment about this in a blow-by-blow response to Darl McBride's open letter (click on http://www.groklaw.com/ for the complete text). It bats the ball firmly into SCO's court by saying:
"We particularly wish to check your Linux Kernel Personality (LKP) source code. We suspect that there may be GPL source code taken from the Linux kernel and used in LKP without authorization, and we challenge you to prove this has not happened by showing us your LKP source code, throughout its complete development history to date."
Whether or not this is so, we doubt if SCO will make much mileage from its LKP. However we would not be surprised to see other Unix vendors offering something along these lines. As we have already stated, we expect Linux not just to dominate, but to become "the operating system standard". We expect that other Operating Systems will eventually be obliged to run Linux in "virtual mode" if they are to survive.