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Linux percolates on client side, too

Even as Linux makes substantial inroads on the server side, observers ask if it will ever play a big role on client systems. While administrative software helpings were most plentiful on the plates at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo last week in New York City, client-side developments were somewhat sparse.

If they were sparse, they were not totally lacking. Some activity seemed to percolate around the e-mail client task. IBM said it will provide Linux client support for its Lotus iNote Web Access software. Cyrusoft International Inc. today unveiled version 3.0 of the Mulberry e-mail client for the Linux/Solaris operating system. And Sun said it would release a Sun One Connector for Ximian's Evolution client.

The Sun connector provides integration for Sun ONE users with Linux and Solaris desktops to the Evolution e-mail and calendaring workgroup information client. This should enable them to collaborate with Windows-based co-workers, as well. Ximian has already fashioned its own connector to the Microsoft Outlook platform.

Among other interesting desktop developments at LinuxWorld: SuSE said its newly available SuSE Linux Office Desktop will support both Microsoft's Office Suite of applications running on the Linux operating system and Sun's StarOffice 6.0 on their Linux desktop.

While some enthusiasts have pushed for a Linux application suite for office workers, neither Sun nor IBM (which inherited the Windows-based Amipro desktop suite with its purchase several years ago of Lotus) has moved in that direction.

For his part, Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president, software at Sun Microsystems Inc., said that Linux was ''growing aggressively on the desktop,'' particularly overseas. But, North America, he indicated, is a different matter.

''The appetite for an alternative desktop in North America is nil,'' said Schwartz.

Operating system changes are key. ''Delivering [Star Office] on Windows isn't very compelling,'' said Schwartz. ''You have to offer a complete alternative.''

Dominant deployment opportunities for Linux desktops, he noted, are in call centers, education applications, and point-of-sale systems, such as those found in gas stations; ''wherever you don't want to pay $500 to $600 per desktop. These are customers who 'need to save.'''

In terms of marketing Star Office, the intent continues to be to ''work with OEMs,'' said Schwartz.

''Our marketing plan is the same as ever -- customers find it,'' he said. ''You won't see [advertising] billboards on the highway,'' he added.

During his presentation Schwartz said Sun was doing what it could to promote desktop alternatives, noting at the same time Sun's legal efforts against Microsoft. This led a reporter to ask the status of
the negotiations between Sun and Microsoft in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The two have been asked by a judge to fashion an agreement to make Windows ''Java-compatible.''

''The court gave direction in December for Microsoft to ship a 100% compatible [Java Virtual Machine] in every copy of Windows. We are working on the wording of the order,'' said Schwartz.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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