Some of the key players in the Linux market were gathered at Comdex/Spring in Chicago on Tuesday for a debate on the future of the Open Source operating system.
The speakers saw very few clouds ahead: "I think it's pretty clear that this year Linux will pass NT to become the number one server operating system," said Larry Augustin, president and chief executive officer of VA Research, "That's an easy prediction."
A more difficult prediction is Linux' fate on the desktop. Augustin said Linux' desktop breakthrough, when it comes, will be as dramatic as its current server success. Augustin estimated this breakthrough to be "12 to 18 months out".
But the operating system won't stop there. Ransom Love, president and chief executive officer of Caldera Systems, added that, "Linux will be the future operating system of network computers, thin servers and thin clients."
Ted Cook, president and chief executive officer of EST, volunteered that Linux will dominate the embedded market, too.
But Jeff Carr, who heads the development of Linux for the PowerPC processor, offered a note of realism: "At this point, Linux is nowhere near as easy to use as Mac OS or Windows to a novice," Carr pointed out.
Love said that the demographics of Linux buyers have changed radically over the last six months. More than 50 per cent of Caldera customers are now first time buyers, said Love, and 85 per cent to 90 per cent are corporates.
All the speakers head relatively small businesses that bet on Linux before it became a media sensation and vendors such as Oracle, Dell and Compaq hopped on board. But the market environment is changing fast.
As Love pointed out: "Our Linux community must become a Linux industry. But the industry has to remain open source and open minded."
Love also said that the open source principle by itself would not be enough to assure sufficient compatibility between all Linux versions. He called on all Linux distributions to agree on a common subset of Linux, the Linux Standard Base.
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