2004: The Year Linux Grows Up (or Blows Up)

eWEEK.com's Linux & Open-Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols really likes what he sees for the server, corporate and retail desktop horizon for 2004. He boldly predicts that major vendors will start producing Linux PCs for the low-end retail m

2004 will be the year of Linux.

SCO may still be heading for the courts, but instead of charging forward, the anti-Linux company will be wobbling forward as the courts start knocking out its arguments. As a result, Linux will be free to grow more quickly than ever in businesses.

In fact, Linux will be growing so fast that Microsoft will have to abandon its attempts to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about it in the server market. Instead, Microsoft will have to start reworking their licensing agreements and not offer special deals for customers who are showing public interest in Linux. In particular, I think Server 2003 and major server applications like Exchange 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server will see price drops.

Why? I think Microsoft is pricing itself out of the market. The economy is getting better, its not getting great. NT and W2K-based CIOs may want to upgrade, but not at Microsofts prices. And, Microsofts new wave of client to server lock-in deals arent going to warm the hearts of IT buyers either. For example, to get the any substantive advantage from Office 2003 you need to buy pricey Office System backend programs like SharePoint Portal Server and Live Communication Server.


No, Linux is already attractive on the server. And the new generation of Linux 2.6-based servers from Novell/SuSE and Red Hat (by the summer of 2003) will be even more attractive with SCO receding from the picture and Microsoft pricing itself out of the market.

I also think that businesses like Progeny Linux Systems Inc., which specialize in integrating and customizing Linux to a particular companys needs will do well. Such companies will enable businesses that want Linux but dont have the in-house expertise to start using Linux without needing to replace their existing IT personnel.

I also expect Linux to finally make some real in-roads on the corporate desktop. Three companies will drive this. Sun and Novell/SuSE will provide desktop Linux systems, the Java Desktop System (JDS) and a SuSE desktop Linux giving a choice of a Ximian Gnome or KDE-based interface. In addition, both companies will be pushing its desktops through established direct and reseller channels. At the same time, Oracle will be strongly encouraging its customers to switch to a Linux desktop.

On the consumer side, JDS and SuSE will play roles in making the Linux desktop more interesting. Lindows and smaller Linux desktop specialists such as Art Linux, Libranet and Xandros are just as likely, I think, to bring grandma to Linux.

Its not, of course, that grandma really cares about what operating system is on her computer. She just wants to send e-mail to the kids and follow her retirement plan. But she is going to want an inexpensive computer, and since XP Home is the single most expensive single element on a PC, it strikes me that major vendors will start following such smaller hardware OEMs as Microtel and CPUBuilders into producing Linux PCs for the low-end retail market.

As for the advance of open source in general, theres little to say except that open source has already won. The most popular Web server in the world is Apache. One of the most used application servers is the open-source Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) JBoss. Look just about anywhere on the server side of life and youll find a high-quality, open-source program that is either a reasonable alternative or the dominant player to proprietary programs.

When you add it all together, I dont think there can be any doubt about it: 2004 will be Linuxs year.

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