Linux On Desktop Not There Yet But Getting Close, Says Ellison

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Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, not surprisingly, has very nice things to say about Linux, given his company's seemingly full-hearted embrace of the operating system.

Perhaps more surprising is the back-handed nature of some of his compliments. Regarding Linux on the desktop, Ellison said: "Star Office is almost usable. It's getting close. I play with it, and it's not awful."

"There is also a new browser, Mozilla, which is Netscape 7 plus bug fixes. It's not bad," said Ellison, speaking to a few-hundred ISVs at an Oracle-sponsored event at New York's Pierre Hotel Tuesday afternoon. (More on Oracle's ISV push.)

As has become standard operating procedure for Ellison, he used the stage to square off against archrival Microsoft. Ellison said Windows has no hold on the desktop. Rather, it's Microsoft Office that people depend on. When there's a viable alternative to Office, "all hell's going to break loose" for Microsoft, Ellison said.

Indeed, Microsoft Office comprises an estimated 60 percent of Microsoft's profit, according to Wall Street analysts.

He also noted that despite Microsoft's Windows monopoly, it has already lost a major battle to open source software. Apache, the open-source Web server has decimated Microsoft's marketshare in that space, Ellison contended.

Microsoft used to have 80 percent of that market just a few years ago but is now down to 20 percent, he maintained. "Apache destroyed them [there] and that will happen again with Linux which is faster and more reliable than Windows on standard Intel hardware," he said.

"The only people still using Microsoft IIS are those who don't even know it's there," he noted.

And, contrary to the perception that Microsoft is making headway at the high end with the existing SQL Server 2000 database and upcoming Windows Server 2003 release, Ellison also maintained that Microsoft has "already lost" the data center because of Windows' roots as a distributed operating system.

Oracle used Monday's event to tout the new ISV recruitment programs announced last week. The company said last week it will devote $150 million to foster development, promotion and sales of third-party Linux applications.

As Linux wins credibility as an alternative not only to Windows but Unix, the push is on to build business applications. On Monday, Microsoft, notable for its non-embrace of the open-source operating system, unveiled new programs geared to entice ISVs not already developing for Windows. (For more on Microsoft's new program.)

Both Oracle and Microsoft have had rocky rapports with ISVs. Because Microsoft's software selection is so wide, it competes with virtually every software developer out there. And Oracle, with its e-business suite push alienated such critical applications players as SAP, Siebel Systems, and PeopleSoft, all of whom have large customer installed bases running on Oracle's database.

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