Linux: Is It Blossoming or Maturing?

Stan Gibson wonders if Linux has reached maturity.

Is Linux blossoming or—gasp!—maturing? When a company, in this case SuSE, is acquired, its a sign of value. But it is also a sign of industry consolidation, which is a sign of maturity—which is the kiss of death in this industry.

To reach maturity with a minority server market share and a negligible client market share (see chart) would not seem to augur well for the future of Linux. And when Novell buys a company, its not necessarily a good sign, either. Novell did once own Unix and WordPerfect, both purchased during an earlier acquisition binge. In the current shopping spree, Novell has added application development toolmaker SilverStream and Linux corporate desktop software provider Ximian, not to mention integrator Cambridge Technology Partners. "This puts Novell in a strong position," said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. IBM thinks so and is investing $50 million in Novell.

Against this backdrop, as Peter Galli reports, Red Hat exiting the consumer desktop market for Linux looks anomalous. But its not. Red Hat says it will concentrate all its energies on enterprise Linux—including storage and backup, as Evan Koblentz reports. Adding up all its acquisitions, Novell is shooting for the enterprise, too. So, its all about the enterprise, and its too soon to speak of maturity for Linux in the sense of irrelevance.

Speaking of maturing, instant messaging technology is showing some welcome signs. IM made its way into many companies the old-fashioned way—in guerrilla fashion—leaving IT to pick up the pieces. As Michael Caton reports, "presence awareness," afforded by such products as Microsofts Office Live Communications Server 2003, is enabling companies to assimilate IM into the corporate application fabric. A higher level of manageability is also required, however, and for that, you can look to such products as FaceTime Communications IM Guardian, reviewed by Francis Chu. "Third-party tools that manage IM are the gatekeepers for protecting corporate assets," Caton writes.

Finally, Peter Coffee, who can spot a Microsoft mistake a mile away, gives credit where its due and says Microsoft is continuing to do what it has long done well—win over developers.

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