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Minutes after last week's LWN went to press, IBM announced support for Red Hat Linux on their systems. See the press release for the description of the deal in their own words. Needless to say, this announcement created a flurry of articles in the press; these articles have been collected on our Linux in the News page. Perhaps most amusing were the claims that IBM's announcement was responsible for a decline in Microsoft's stock price.

On a first reading, there's less to the announcement than one would expect after all the hype. What they have announced is the following:

  • IBM and Red Hat will work together to make Linux work better on IBM's hardware.
  • The two companies will collaborate to provide technical support.
  • They will conduct joint marketing to "enterprise developers."
Red Hat will also host its web pages on Netfinity servers.

This is clearly an important announcement, but it isn't quite the full dive into Linux that has been expected of IBM. They are still expecting others to put Linux onto their systems, for now. Thus, if you buy a Thinkpad, you still have to do the Windows refund routine.

The alliance, however, puts IBM's name onto the list of support providers for Linux. That, at least, should address the complaints of those who have criticised Linux and the support available for it. The "Linux has no support" attack has become even harder to defend. It's about time.

What else is missing at this point is any sort of arrangement with any other distribution; rumors in the trade press for a while have been saying that IBM would take a multi-distribution approach. One can still hope that these rumors turn out to be true. The diversity of distributions is not a weakness of Linux - it's one of Linux's greatest strengths. It would be a very positive thing if a company like IBM would understand and promote that strength.

HP, too, will be making announcements shortly. They are expected to announce greatly expanded support for Linux, including the long-awaited PA-RISC port.

The LinuxWorld Expo is next week. This is likely to be an interesting event for a number of reasons. It may well turn out to be significant turning point in the evolution of Linux.

This conference is the first Linux event put together by a large publisher. IDG has managed to annoy some people on the way, and it has not always been clear that they have the best interests of the Linux community at heart. (Their registration of linuxexpo.com, for example, seems intended to create confusion with the long standing Linux Expo event). But the numbers speak for themselves: this should be the largest Linux gathering yet held.

IDG has announced a set of awards that will be passed out at the conference, including a $25,000 prize ("the IDG/Linus Torvalds Community Award") "...to be shared equally between two recipients that have established themselves as Linux developers and visionaries in the community."

Quite a few companies are putting together big announcements for this conference. The character of the business side of Linux may well look somewhat different afterwards. Expect it to be better funded, and more competitive. Linux is exploding, and an awful lot of people are beginning to smell money. We will see how many of them intend to get their piece of this pie at next week's conference.

And for the folks who are thinking ahead, IDG has issued a call for papers for the next LinuxWorld Expo in August; the deadline is March 15.

LWN will be at LinuxWorld in force. We will be producing next week's LWN entirely in San Jose (anybody want to let us borrow a net connection?). So while parts of next week's LWN may be a little thin, our conference coverage should be complete. Keep an eye out for us!

Software patents in Europe? This publication has spoken out about the problems with software patents in the U.S. before. These patents, which are often handed out for seemingly trivial and widespread practices, pose a real threat to free software in the future. So it is with some consternation that we see indications that the European Union is considering American-style software patents of its own. This would not be a step forward for Europe. People who are interested in this issue may want to have a look at freepatents.orgsite, which is currently featuring an interview with Michael Widenius, of MySQL fame. (Thanks to Stéfane Fermigier).

LWN will be available in Japanese starting with a translation of this issue. It will show up on this sitesometime on February 27. Thanks to Maya Tamiya and associates who will be doing this work; we wish them the best of luck.

And now, a word from our sponsor. Eklektix, Inc., the producer of the Linux Weekly News, has expanded its Linux training program to include open registration classes. The first such class - a week-long hands-on Linux system administration course - will be held in Boulder, Colorado on April 26-30, 1999. Please have a look at our Linux learning for Real Life pages for details, and we hope to see you there!

February 25, 1999


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