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The StartX Files: Inside the Expo - page 3

On Penguins and Lawyers

  • August 8, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

There were some genuine mysteries to be found, though, that I started to pursue. One big one was, where was UnitedLinux? There was absolutely no presence by the consortium at the show. SuSE, of course, was there since their North American offices were in Oakland. But there was no mention of UL in their booth, not even logos that I could see. No one would answer any questions on the record, either.

Which sort of confirmed a theory of mine: UnitedLinux, when it was first conceived, was a way for SuSE to get itself into the North American market place (and Asia and South America). SCO was supposed to help them do that, but SCO could never follow through on delivering a better N.A. sales channel. And then, of course, SCO went insane.

UnitedLinux was a good idea, and if it had been executed properly, it woould have been exactly what SuSE needed. But it wasn't executed properly, even before SCO's shenanigans, and now it is very likely going to go away. Leaving SuSE to figure out another way to get into the N.A. markets.

SuSE needs a serious facelift on this side of the pond. Several people have told me that would love to work with SuSE, if only to get away from what they perceive as the mechanizations of Red Hat. But SuSE's sales teams never seem to follow up on potential customers' inquiries and the support these folks have gotten is not very strong, either. SuSE, it seems, is a company in search of a mission outside of its power base in Europe. One can only hope it finds one soon.

Another mystery I wanted to solve: what is Sun doing? I mean, come on, they tell everyone they can about all of their great Linux initiatives and then McNealy comes out and says something in public that undos all of their work. I was only halfway kidding with that crack about the Sun booth earlier, by the way.

But I had something more specific to tackle: I was interested in why, after a big public death statement, Sun Linux 5.0 was going to be resurrected again as part of the Mad Hatter Project Sun has going. I was curious not just for the platform's existence, but also the timing. It struck me as odd that after revealing that they'd purchased a UNIX license from SCO (the real UNIX license, not the Linux license that SCO is currently trying to peddle off) along came Sun Linux again.

Here was my theory: Sun was going to try to market its Sun Linux as some sort of "one, true Linux" that would be free and clear of IP issues. They still might, but after two conversations, I think I was very wrong. The answer, it seems, has to do with Red Hat.

When I talked to Sun's Jack O'Brien about the existence of the Sun Linux desktop, he replied that for the server side, Sun was still planning on using its partnerships with Red Hat and SuSE and deliver those platforms. On the clients, however, Sun Linux would be a modified Linux distribution that independent software vendors could work directly with Sun to build their applications, O'Brien explained.

Okay, that was an answer, but I left the meeting still puzzled. What does it matter that Sun needs to work directly with ISVs? Everyone knows that Sun's new Linux distro was based on Red Hat. Why not just keep using Red Hat directly?

The next converstation I had, with Red Hat, shed some light.

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