Linux Continues to Spar with Microsoft

While Microsoft Corp. continues to be preoccupied with its government antitrust battle, some say the Linux operating system is gaining the same momentum against the software titan that fictitious Rocky Balboa gained in his heavy weight bout against Apollo Creed.

Dell Computer Corp. announced April 26 that it plans to factory-install the new Red Hat Linux 6.0 operating system in its popular servers and workstations. This comes only two months after IBM said it would ship its Netfinity line of network server computers with the free operating Linux system already preinstalled alongside Microsoft’s Windows NT.

Linux-lovers say that for the first time in years another operating system may be training hard enough to someday KO Bill Gates and company.

Adding credibility to this scenario is the fact that in recent months such big players as Compaq Computer Corp., Intel Corp., Netscape Communications and Oracle Corp. have all bought equity in the Red Hat Software, a Durham, North Carolina-based major distributor of Linux.

Created eight years ago by 29-year-old Linus Torvalds when he was a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, Linux today runs some of the most sophisticated computers in the world — including research computers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. And unlike Windows, the Linux software is free and its source code is public domain. Red Hat makes money not from selling Linux — but by packaging an official version and offering technical support that doesn’t come with the free version.

Why wouldn’t every e-commerce site use Linux?

Even though, Linux’s market share skyrocketed by 212 percent in the past year, Microsoft still rules 85 percent of the market. Critics of the Linux say the No. 1 reason Windows will continue to remain the dominant force is because of its service. They point out that despite Linux’s power and stability, e-commerce sites have nowhere to turn for the kind of technical support necessary to run a successful day-to-day operation.

IBM hopes to solve this problem by offering its customers support for the software through an agreement with Red Hat.

Some analysts also note that if all it took were quality for a superior operating system to dominate, then Macintosh would have beaten Windows into the ground a decade ago. Analysts add that one additional blow to the Linux’s “Rocky” fantasy is the fact that there are few — if any — good word processing, e-commerce or spreadsheet applications available for the underdog operating system.

Who Will Be Standing When the Fight’s Over?

Nevertheless, supporters of Linux believe their champion will eventually prevail. But they should remember that in the movie “Rocky,” even though Balboa lost the fight, he gained self-respect.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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