LinuxWorld 2004: Tuxs Graduation Day Linux & Open-Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols sees Linux graduating to enterprise-IT status at LinuxWorld.

Were all Linux users. Do you use TiVo to record the latest episode of The West Wing? Youre a Linux user. Did you Google for a word today? Youre a Linux user. Have you bought a book on Amazon? Yes? Then you, too, are a Linux user. Linux is everywhere.

You can see it at this weeks LinuxWorld as well. Take a look at the keynote speakers. Whos on the list? Open-source programmers from Finland? Free software advocates explaining the GPL?

No, not this time. This year, its, Jack Messman, the CEO of Novell, and top executives from Amazon, Computer Associates, IBM and Oracle. There isnt even a single pure Linux distributor, like Red Hat, represented at the top of the keynote marquee.

Why the change in lineup? I think its because Linux has graduated from being an alternative operating system for those who like to take chances on their servers and desktops to being a big part of the IT mainstream.

Dont take my word for it. Just look at whats been happening in the past few months.

Novell argues that after the acquisition of SuSE, its now the No. 1 Linux company in the world. For my money, Id still pick Red Hat, but yes, Novell—Novell, of all companies!—is now well on its way to becoming the most important business Linux distributor.

Sun remains a little crazy about whether its really supporting Linux or not, but its latest desktop move, Java Desktop System, looks promising—really promising—for corporate desktops. And, in a move that really surprises me, in Japan, Sun is actually moving into the retail space with the Japanese version of StarOffice, StarSuite, which will be sold at their equivalent of 7-11s. Sun? Retail channel? I sure didnt see that coming!

Even Intel is contributing to the OSDL defense fund to protect corporate Linux users from any SCO legal challenges to their use of Linux.

Its not just the big guys, either. Theres a lot more of a push for a mass-market Linux desktop than Id thought there would be this year. Im still not sure Linux will fly on business desktops this year, but with Lindows; Ark; and my personal favorite, Xandros, improving almost every day, I could be proven dead wrong.

Dont get me wrong: Windows will still be on 95 percent of all desktops at years end. But the delta, the rate of growth for Linux desktops, may be a lot more impressive than I thought it would be only a few weeks ago.

The continued improvements of products like CodeWeavers CrossOver Office and NeTraverses Win4Lin is also making it a lot easier for users to have both their legacy Windows applications and a solid Linux foundation on one system. Windows programs and Linux stability—whats not to like?

Oracle sure seems to like what its seeing. Its had its DBMS on Linux for years now, but these days the companys also moving its desktops to Linux and its going to be making Mozilla, the popular open-source Web browser, an interface to its programs.

At LinuxWorld, I expect to see a grown-up Linux—an adult Linux, diploma in hand—ready for any business challenges the corporate IT world can throw at it. It wont be as much fun for those who love riding technologys bleeding edge, but for CIOs, CTOs and department heads who want an operating system to which they can entrust their enterprise, it will be the best LinuxWorld ever. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. Be sure to check out eWEEK.coms Linux and Open Source Center at for the latest Linux news, views and analysis.