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.comment: What Are We Shooting For, Anyway? - page 2

The Surprise of Linux

  • March 21, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

Sure is nifty that Linux will run on an S/390. It really is. As is all the talk of scalability, of how good it is as a server, of how networking is so built-in that every Linux machine, even one that isn't connected to anything, is really a multi-user system unto itself. Cool.

Note, too, some serious activity being undertaken by Linux distributors, those to whom venture capital matters. They are doing some things that are more aimed at stockholders than at customers. (This really has nothing to do with the stock market. A lot -- a whole lot -- of money was very stupidly spent in the pursuit of equities that had not demonstrated their value, making a bubble that has now popped. It's back at the beginning, and those of value get to demonstrate it, and those of no value get to die, which was really the ultimate outcome, anyway, all along.)

Red Hat is moving toward being a content provider with service provision to fall back on, or service provider with content provision to fall back on. Caldera has tightened up its ``Linux for business'' model to take on Linux, and Linux-hybridized with-Unixware, and Unixware for business servers and workstations attached thereto. SuSE, still suffering from some amazingly intemperate remarks by its president (who is not, after all, a columnist), is presumably happy due to the infusion of cash from Compaq, which may or may not change the focus of one of the best distributions. TurboLinux -- well, does anyone know or care what they are up to? They're in trouble, and it's unknown whether they'll sort themselves out, though in a good part of the world they're relied upon to the extent that they're likely to survive in some form, but probably not as a big financial player. Mandrake is enveloped by a book publisher that lately hasn't demonstrated all that much interest in Linux. Debian, as is its wont because it has no investors to appease, doesn't give a damn. Good for it.

Big companies have taken an interest, youbetcha. IBM has pledged, what, a billion dollars or something toward Linux promotion. Take a look at the history of IBM embracing things that weren't invented at IBM (and, actually, a lot of things that were invented there), and all you'll come away with is the observation that IBM is first in world ranking among companies that can spend a billion dollars to no useful effect. (Hi there, OS/2 folks!)

To the extent that there is a trend, it is toward the server market. Yeah, there are lots of people who have pledged the bread for membership in the Gnome Foundation and the KDE League, though very few who claimed membership in the latter have actually forked over the dough, and I suspect that the former is experiencing the same. This is just as well, in one way: Both organizations are jokes, aimed more at the personal glorification of their officers than doing anything useful. Looking at these sorry, undirected organizations, if I were in charge of shareholder money I'd welsh, too.

But it's troubling in another way as well. The server is where the money in Linux is headed.

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