Intel and Netscape, along with two small venture capital firms, have each taken minority equity positions in Linux distribution vendor Red Hat Software.
The move marks a watershed in the industry's acceptance of Linux as a viable alternative to Windows NT and Unix operating systems in the enterprise.
Although Netscape has already embraced the Open Source movement by promising ports of its server software to Linux, and by releasing the source code for its Communicator browser and groupware package, Intel has up until now stayed firmly allied to Microsoft.
Intel's decision to support Linux is more significant considering Microsoft's recent admission that it sees Linux as a threat to the market dominance of NT. In its annual filing to the US securities and exchange commission (SEC), Microsoft admitted that "over the past year, the Linux operating system has gained increasing acceptance".
It seems Intel is slowly freeing itself from its cosy relationship, whether perceived or real, with Microsoft. Earlier this year, PC Week unearthed a secret project to port Linux to Intel's upcoming Merced processor (see PC Week 12 May), which Intel only recently admitted openly. "We've invested millions of dollars into interesting technology start-ups as a way of increasing demand for our products," an Intel spokesman claimed.
The spokesman argued that the investment was purely the result of Intel's response to customer demand, and not because Intel perceived Linux as a threat to NT.
Red Hat announced that it is using the investment to establish an Enterprise Computing Division, which will "offer enterprise grade products and services to support global, mission-critical applications," according to an official statement. "As the growing number of users demonstrates, the Linux operating system is ready for enterprise-wide applications," said Red Hat president Robert Young.
- See Leader, page 26.
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