Linux works toward desktop

In the past 12 months, Linux has become less of a buzzword and more of a

reality, with companies ranging from IBM Corp. to Silicon Graphics Inc.

throwing weight behind the open-source operating system.

The operating system is a real alternative in the server market: 60

percent of Web servers on the Internet are running Apache, the open source

Web server software, according to market research firm International Data

Corp. However, the open model of Linux — which is widely considered to be

its strength — also can hinder its acceptance.

"People don't like the fact that the code is constantly being developed,"

said Larry Augustin, president and chief executive officer of VA Linux Systems

Inc., during a keynote address at Linux Expo 2000 in London last week.

The consensus on the show floor was that there are still interface and

application issues that keep it off the desktop."

Companies are still trying to make it easier to use," said David Patrick

Cheng, IT officer at Imperial College in London." Linux will have to continue

its path, heading more towards [graphical user interface] and away from

text-based operation."

One product making progress is Applixware Office, a Linux alternative

to Microsoft Corp.'s Office for Windows suite.

"Because of things like identical [key combinations such as Control-C

for copy] and the look and feel of the program, you don't even realize you're

using Linux," said Bernd Wagner, vice president of European operations for

the Linux division of Applix GmbH.

Some companies already have started producing software that enable users

to bring documents created with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint over to a

Linux environment and view or modify the documents using a Linux program.

Another Linux firm, Definite Software PLC, still concentrates on the server

market, but it is likely to aim more at desktop users within the next two

years, according to Lance Davis, a consultant with the company.

However, Davis sees the future of Linux in embedded processors and on

servers.

"I think people will use it on the desktop, but will it become the desktop

for everyone is the question," he said.

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