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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 07:05 GMT
Life looks good for Linux
The Sopranos, AP
Join the family: Linux is winning new fans
For almost every technology company, business is a bit slow at the moment.

Apart, that is, for companies involved with Linux, the open source operating system.

Many firms that sell software and services based around the free operating system are doing good business and many large firms and governments are eagerly adopting the software.

Even Microsoft, traditionally the arch-enemy of open source advocates, has started espousing some of the philosophy that drives the movement.

Manhattan transfer

Linux is the creation of Finn Linus Torvalds, who built the free software around work done by the Free Software Foundation and the venerable, and powerful, Unix operating system.

The source code of Linux is open to anyone to scrutinise and tinker with. This has meant that Linux is more secure and reliable than operating systems from firms such as Microsoft.

A penguin, BBC
The Linux mascot is a penguin called Tux
This week, New York is hosting the Linuxworld Conference and Expo, an event which gives an insight into the state of open source software and reveals that it is regarding the future with more confidence than most.

Hewlett-Packard recently announced that its Linux-related business now amounts to sales of more than $2bn per year.

Stars from hit TV show the Sopranos will attend a party to celebrate HP's success with Linux.

Open source software is also rapidly finding favour with many governments and public bodies as its lack of licence fees, reliability and freedom to tinker proves a powerful draw.

This week the South African Government declared itself an open source advocate.

Strong future

Market research firms also predict a bright future for open source software.

The Meta Group predicts that 45% of servers will be running Linux by 2007 at the latest. Similarly, analysts Gartner expects to see shipments of Linux server software to double in 2003 and generate 4bn in sales.

The companies trying to build businesses around the Linux operating system are also stepping up efforts, called United Linux, to create standard editions of the software and to ensure skills are transferable across its different varieties.

The news is not all good with some firms, such as Mandrake, experiencing financial problems as they struggle to find ways of making free software pay.

Many firms are working to use Linux behind software, such as Lotus Notes, that has traditionally run on Microsoft's Windows operating system.

Again the reliability, security and low cost of Linux is proving popular when technology budgets are being squeezed.

Even Microsoft has adopted something of the approach of the open source movement by pledging to governments to give them sight of Windows' source code.

Microsoft critics see this as simply as a tactic designed to dent the success of open source software as a whole and shows how successful the movement has become.

See also:

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