Will Linux steal the party?

Linux once was seen as a "Windows killer," but that potential seems to have

faded. The open-system Linux is now used mainly in network servers. However,

some Unix users who want to buy inexpensive desktop systems based on Intel

Corp. processors — but who are loath to turn to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows

NT — are looking closely at Linux.

"It's not a well-known fact that there are more applications that run

on an Intel system with Linux than there are for the [Sun Microsystems Inc.]

Solaris platform," said John Sheldon, technical services manager for the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamic

Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. The lab must decide how to replace its stock

of aging Silicon Graphics Inc. workstations.

Linux does have an appeal for many people, said Peter ffoulkes, manager

of the software and strategy group of Sun's work-station product marketing

division. It's certainly more open than Windows NT, he said, and people

"can fiddle with it and put it onto cheap equipment." Users question its

stability and long-term product support, but Sun is doing a "tremendous

amount of work" with the Linux community to answer its needs, he said.

The break may come with the intro-duction of Itanium, Intel's 64-bit

micro-processor, due out early next year, according to International Data

Corp. analyst Kara Yokley. With the expected lower price of the Itanium

relative to comparable RISC chips and the inexpensiveness of Linux itself,

"that combination could well give Unix a run for its money," she said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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