Linux looms on mainframe

InfoWorld |  Development

"They don't have Netscape Enterprise Server over there [on Linux] yet, and we are not happy with the IBM equivalent," he says. "We looked at it last summer, but it had the sort of cracks and anomalies that make it fall apart in some situations. All I could tell IBM was, 'Give Netscape a bunch of money and have them put it on their box.' "

Linux on desktops: Hurdles remain

Although Linux mainframes may loom on the horizon, Linux on the desktop does not even figure into the forecast.

There have been a few positive signs of late that Linux is making some progress as a meaningful competitor to Microsoft's Windows, but many believe it still has a long uphill walk in the rain ahead.

Sun Microsystems has made the Linux version of its popular Star Office desktop suite available free of charge. Eazel, a promising startup that includes Mac OS designer Andy Herztfeld and former Apple Software evangelist Mike Boitch, is inching closer to delivering its impressive-looking graphical interface that is tied to its networking environment.

Corel's WordPerfect, with a strong following in several key desktop markets including legal and medical fields, has been another shining hope for desktop Linux. But with rumors swirling that the financially troubled company was about to sell off its Linux business, it only further supports the argument that ISVs have trouble making a living from Linux-based desktop applications.

But with less than a 4 percent share of the desktop market at the end of 2000, according to numbers from Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, some are wondering when the open-source OS is going to make any sort of breakthrough.

"I applaud [Eazel's] attempts at making Linux friendlier. But when you get down to it, a pretty interface with no software or missing components on the applications side only means you have a desktop OS that is all dressed up with nothing to run," says Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at IDC.

The other bad news is that some analysts expect Microsoft's Windows 2000 to pick up steam in both the desktop and server markets this year. With large corporations finishing up their Windows 2000 evaluation and testing cycles and many exploitative applications on the way, many are forecasting much healthier sales even by midyear.

Other analysts believe Linux's best chance may lay with devices rather than desktops. For example, Linux market leader Red Hat, through its purchase of Cygnus in late 1999, is focused on creating embedded versions of Linux for a variety of handheld devices through its EL/IX set of APIs. With EL/IX, developers can create applications on handhelds that require only 32KB of memory.

"We are starting to see the growth of companion devices that sit side-by-side with the desktop systems," Kusnetzky says. "It is looking more likely that this is where Linux will find a place."

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