Count Compaq among the big players now emphasizing Linux. The company formed a Linux program office about a year ago, although it was announced formally just last month. The office has prepared an open source portal to help aggregate information that will help Linux efforts on Compaq hardware. There are indications that Compaq and others are getting ready to unveil significant benchmarks that will enhance the server-side Linux story for IT organizations.
Compaq, as both a desktop and server house, must straddle various worlds when pursuing Linux solutions. According to Judy Chavis, the manager of Compaq's Linux program office, the company has initiatives over most of its platforms, including storage systems and emerging wireless appliances.
Still, she agrees with those who see Linux at the moment as a server story. "Compaq created this program office because Linux is strong in the server market today. It's still very server-centric," Chavis says.
When discussing Linux on the desktop, she points out that of Compaq's strongest partners is Microsoft. Like others she notes that Microsoft is in a dominant position in the personal productivity application market. "It will take years before you see anything happening in that place. Microsoft has made it very easy for end users," she said.
One smaller vendor has taken a unique approach to spreading the desktop use of Linux: WorkSpot is the maker of AppSpot, an application service that helps companies quickly Web-enable Unix or Linux applications.
The company has been interested in promoting Linux on the desktop from its initiation in 1999, according to CEO Kathy Giori. But WorkSpot has taken the tack of providing server-savvy thin-client software that may be described as an open source analog to more familiar Windows-ready systems from Citrix and others.
At Linux World Expo, WorkSpot is expected to announce a deal to support Nautilus, a network user environment built by prominent startup Eazel. Nautilus combines a browser, a file manager, and specialized apps to provide a better user interface.
One of the big values regarding software like Easel and AppSpot for Linux, said Giori, is that it exploits Linux's success on the server side.
With such software IT shops can "take advantage of the server side," she said.
" There is not a large installed base of Linux operating systems on desktops," she said. "But you can allow people to use a desktop that is running on a Linux server and appears to execute on the desktop.
"On the desktop, I think Linux will continue to grow in the developers' base and in the field of education. And that will spill over into the business world."