Just about the only thing creating any heat last week in New York was the LinuxWorld trade show, where determined Linux product vendors showed off a series of offerings notably geared at the SMB marketplace.
I won't recap the technical nitty-gritty of all the announcements there (you can visit crn.com for that), but they ran the gamut from SCO Group's Linux-based administration and e-mail servers to SuSE's Linux Office Desktop, which is engineered to let users run both Microsoft Office and Sun StarOffice applications on a Linux desktop. IBM dropped by to show off a commercially available version of Linux database clustering and a 64-bit DB2 beta running on AMD's Opteron. There's more slated to come from many other Linux advocates at the desktop level, including more GUIs, at the Linux Desktop Summit conference planned for next month.
Way back when I joined CRN, I covered the battle between OS/2 and the then-fledgling Windows technology. But the struggle between Windows and Linux is very different for one big reason: Solution providers and users are creating the loudest clamor for these alternative products, not developers touting the technical superiority of one operating system vs. another,although that certainly helps.
For those of you who doubt the mainstream potential of the Linux phenomenon, consider this. My father called me about two weeks ago to barrage me with a flood of questions about the viability of Linux. What does a retired cocoa-purchasing specialist care about open source? A great deal, it seems, especially since he has set up a Linux partition on his computer. For the record, my father is also a big fan of the custom-system (aka white-box) movement. He has little patience for features he doesn't need in a computer. Just give him the ability to choose exactly what he wants, and he's happy. By the way, brand makes very little difference to him, but the proximity of his local solution provider is a huge deal, as is the case with many small-business owners.
I have nothing against Microsoft or Windows, but it seems to me that all this commercial activity around Linux can only be good for the high-tech industry. The best guarantee of innovation, after all, is good old-fashioned competition.
HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, hasn't played with Linux yet, but she is a huge Mac fanatic. You can e-mail her at email@example.com.