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Linux Looking Back: Review of LinuxWorld Coverage in 2003

Linux Looking Back: Review of LinuxWorld Coverage in 2003


Prescient Perens -
"I suspect that the first major PC OEM to preload and sell Linux desktops in the US might be Sun."

Joe Barr talked to Bruce Perens, the former Linux/Open-Source strategist for HP,about his work with the Cyber Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, his new Prentice Hall book series and his life since departing HP.

One of the key questions Barr put to Perens was "Who do you think will be the first major PC OEM to preload and sell Linux desktops in the United States?"

Here was the ever-prescient Perens's reply:

I think it is almost a year away. I think they are waiting for things like a better control panel in GNOME that can actually administer the system. I suspect that the first might be Sun Microsystems for both SPARC and IA86. Sun is not retail level, you know. Sun sells to business. I think that Sun has actually been putting significant effort into its Linux. That could be totally out in left field; this is pure speculation. They have not briefed me on this.



Lindows president -
"The Linux Desktop Consortium doesn't have any clear direction on what exactly they were going to do."

"In February Maureen O'Gara told of the formation of the Desktop Linux Consortium, which she described thus: "A bunch of companies and open source organizations have indulged in a favorite industry activity and have formed a consortium, this one to promote Linux on the desktop, something they're doing without Linux-on-the-desktop's biggest flag waver Lindows.com."

"Its current membership," O'Gara wrote, "includes ArkLinux, CodeWeavers, Debian.org, DesktopLinux.com, KDE, the Linux Professional Institute, Lycoris, the Linux Terminal Server Project, MandrakeSoft, NeTraverse, Open-Office.org, Questnet (Support4Linux com), Samba.org, theKompany, SuSE, TransGaming Technologies, Trust-Commerce, Xandros and Ximian."

One key engine of the desktop Linux drive, Lindows.com, was - O'Gara noted - "conspicuously absent from the consortium although it was reportedly invited to join." In a posting on the Lindows.com Web site, she added, Lindows president Kevin Carmony said the consortium "didn't have any clear direction on what exactly they were going to do, and so we said we'd take another look later in the year after they get some sort of order."  



Nick Petreley - People had been underestimating how quickly Windows' market share was being eroded by Linux

Nicholas Petreley wrote about how there are dozens of reasons why people had been underestimating how quickly Linux has been grabbing Windows' market share. "Windows starts out with a false boost and maintains its illusory market share even as it gets replaced by Linux," he opined. "In 2004, don't be surprised when Linux overtakes Windows to become the main focus for developers."

In helping Evans data with a survey on Linux, Petreley made some interesting discoveries:

"There are dozens of reasons why people have underestimated how quickly Linux has been grabbing Windows' market share, but the Evans data confirms one of my pet theories. Windows market share is usually estimated by the units of Windows Microsoft claims to have shipped. This figure is already skewed, because it includes every unsold box of Windows XP sitting on shelves at Best Buy or Circuit City. More significant, however, is the fact that it includes every PC with a pre-installed version of Windows.

Linux market share, on the other hand, is usually estimated based on surveys, number of commercial boxes sold and the number of downloads.

"But are people really installing Linux over Windows?" Petreley asked rhetorically. "The answer is a resounding yes," he answered. "More than 70 percent of developers say they install Linux over whatever OS happens to be pre-installed on the machines they buy. Could that pre-installed OS be another flavor of Linux? Sure. In that case, Linux gets counted fairly, since one uncounted copy of Linux replaces a copy that is counted by being pre-installed. But does anyone want to place a wager on which OS is more likely to be pre-installed on those machines?"

SCO Sues IBM for a Billion Dollars over IP

March was memorable above all though for SCO Group's decision to launch a $1 Billion lawsuit against IBM. SCO charged that Big Blue consciously destroyed the economic value of the Unix operating system - which SCO claimed (and claims) it is supposed to own - in the name of aggrandizing IBM's new Linux services business.

SCO filed suit in state court in Utah, where it lives, charging IBM with misappropriating its trade secrets, tortious interference, unfair competition and breach of contract.


MAY: "Until further notice, Gentoo is now my flavor of Linux."

Nick Petreley abandoned Debian and declared Gentoo to be the new kid on his box. "The increasing popularity of Gentoo is almost difficult to explain," he wrote, "given that it's clearly a distribution by geeks, for geeks and for nobody but geeks. Obviously a geek can set up a Gentoo system for a non-geek, so you may find novices using Gentoo. You just won't find many novices installing it."

"To be more precise," Petreley continued, Gentoo Linux "is not really a distribution but a meta-distribution. You don't usually install pre-compiled binaries when you add software to a Gentoo system. You most often compile and build the binaries yourself, according to your own personal optimization and configuration settings. Gentoo gives you the ability to treat almost the entire system this way, but it also lets the less-patient users start with a basic pre-compiled system. After that, you can build your own higher-level packages on top of that core installation."

"Do I still like Debian? I absolutely love it. But until further notice," he concluded, "Gentoo is now my flavor of Linux."

In May, too SCO announced that it was suspending further sales of its own version of Linux, and sent a letter to SCO partners in which CEO and President Darl McBride said that SCO was "alerting commercial users to the fact that legal liability for the use of Linux by businesses may extend to end users."


JUNE: Introducing..."A polished, polished, polished Gnome-based desktop"

June brought a first look at Ximian Desktop 2

"A polished, polished, polished Gnome-based desktop," wrote Joe Barr, who had given it up last fall when he installed Red Hat 8. "My overall impression, beta or no, is Ximian has done an outstanding job on Ximian Desktop 2," he continued. "Not just in bringing its desktop up to the latest version of GNOME and the latest releases of major distributions, but in the additions, tweaks, and tuning as well. I'm very happy to have a Ximian desktop again, and I hope I don't have to go a long time without it in the future."


Miguel de Icaza - "It's a huge step forward for the open source community to gain strong support from a company like Novell."

Novell snapped up Ximian. Cofounder Miguel de Icaza was transformed from CTO of Ximian to chief technology officer for the Novell Ximian Services business unit of Novell and said: "It's a huge step forward for the open source community to gain strong support from a company like Novell. Initiatives like GNOME and Mono will only improve with Novell's resources behind them."


Jonathan Schwartz, Sun - 
"We think this offers an interesting opportunity to change the dynamics of the marketplace."

Sun's EVP Software, Jonathan Schwartz, used the occasion of the first day of the SunNetwork event in San Francisco in September to take the wraps off  the "Java Desktop System" - the Linux-based contender in the 'Desktop War' Sun had made up its mind to wage on Microsoft.

Schwartz demo'ed it flawlessly, using StarOffice 7.0 to open - what else? - Microsoft's Form 10-K filing on the Microsoft Web site, from which Word document he proceeded deftly to extricate the balance sheet line entry "Long term unearned revenue." (Needless to say, the figure was huge: $13,974,000,000 in 2003 alone.)

"We think this offers an interesting opportunity to change the dynamics of the marketplace," Schwartz noted. The pricing model he unveiled was inoovative: $100 per desktop or $50 per employee, i.e. one-tenth of the cost of Microsoft Office.


October began with long-time anti-Linux Wind River Systems doing an about-face and setting its sights on embedded Linux system-level development.


Jack Messman - 
"With this acquisition, Novell will be the only billion-dollar software company with a Linux distribution and a worldwide ecosystem around it."

In the November came the big news that Novell was going to acquire SuSE. The acquisition followed Novell's August purchase of Ximian.



Torvalds -
"If Darl McBride was in charge, he'd probably make marriage unconstitutional too, since clearly it de-emphasizes the commercial nature of normal human interaction, and probably is a major impediment to the commercial growth of prostitution."

December was dominated by SCO:

SCO's GPL Position is "Just Invalid" Says Professor (Dec 4)

Top Ten comments by Linus Torvalds about the SCO Group (Dec 7)

SCO Gets 30 Days to Get "Beyond FUD" and Disclose Facts (Dec 8)

SCO's "DDoS Attack" - Was It or Wasn't It? (Dec 11)

Open Letters Back to Darl by Bob Young and Jon "maddog" Hall (Dec 12)

SCO Specifies "Offending Code" (Dec 19)

Latest "IP Enforcement Move" by SCO Raises Hackles - Novell Responds (Dec 22)

SCO Escalates Letter-Writing War on Linux (Dec 23)


More Stories By Linux News Desk

SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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