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Editor's Note: Losing a Battle, Winning the War

Linuxcare Shelves IPO, but Intel pushes Open Source

  • April 10, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

One of the more fascinating things about Linux is the continuing debate about the exact role and nature of Linux. It's quite apparent that Linux is more than just a set of code: it's a mindset, a philosophy, and the center of the entire Open Source movement.

But sometimes the exuberance of the Linux community meets the harsh realities of the business world. Such clashes are inevitable: in many ways the corporate world just isn't set up to deal with a model that calls for programmers to freely give away the fruits of their labor in the hopes that it will generate revenue on some level.

So it's no surprise that the stock market hasn�t been the kindest of friends to Linux companies. VA Linux, Cobalt Networks, Red Hat...all of these companies went public only to see their stock prices go steadily down. While you could argue that from a traditional viewpoint VA Linux has a shaky business plan (will the company compete with Dell? With Red Hat? As an online publisher?), both Cobalt and Red Hat have more thoughtful, focused business plans, and to a large extent both have made tremendous strides in meeting these business objectives while at the same time serving the needs of the Linux community.

The failure of Wall Street to reward a solid business plan can be seen in Linuxcare's announcement to delay its impending IPO, which originally was expected to premiere sometime this month. Out of the many Linux companies that are considering an IPO, Linuxcare seemed to have the most solid business plan, operating as a neutral Switzerland of sorts in supporting all Linux distributions under corporate service plans. Supporting Linux is the Holy Grail of all Linux companies, and it's seen as the most reliable source of income. But Wall Street has apparently frowned on a Linux company with a solid pedigree, and for the short term all Linux companies must suffer.

Ironically, the setback comes at a time when Open Source is growing rapidly in popularity in the corporate world. On the same day Linuxcare announced the shelving of its IPO, Intel announced that it was leaping into the Open Source world with the release of its advanced security software for Linux, offered under an Open Source contract. The software will also be released free of charge. What does Intel have to gain from this move? To become the authority on security (which is the cornerstone of e-commerce) and to sell more servers. Intel doesn�t really care whether the servers run Windows or Linux or Solaris; however, given the open nature of Linux and Open Source, Intel can make a greater impact determining the direction of Linux and Open Source.

So it looks like we've lost a battle with the delayed IPO of Linuxcare--but we're winning the war as another major player in the computing community makes a tangible contribution to the Open Source world.

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