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More analyst studies released. There was a pile of studies about Linux and Windows released this week; some favorable, some ... less so ... We'll get the unfavorable stuff over with first.

We were overdue for another Gartner Group study giving a dim view of Linux. The wait is over...Jussi Torhonen pointed us to three separate articles that went up recently:

  • The first one looks at competition with Windows for desktop systems. "The lack of standards in the Linux community, coupled with a lack of key productivity applications and with Unix complexity, will continue to make Linux a poor choice for the mainstream business productivity user."

  • The next projects Linux market share over the next five years. "Enterprises should avoid making substantial investments in Linux for complex, critical applications before 2001 or until greater commitments in the broad server market are shown from the ISV community."

  • Finally, there is this look at Red Hat's prospects. "Red Hat investors are counting on nothing short of a revolution against Microsoft. The Linux enthusiasts are being egged on by a fanatical part of the open-source community that hates Microsoft. This fervor, however, does not extend to corporate IS organizations."
This all just looks like the usual sort of Gartner stuff. The fine print at the bottom of the articles caught some people's attention, however:
Microsoft Web Letter is published by Microsoft. Additional editorial material supplied by Gartner Group, Inc. ©1999. Editorial supplied by Microsoft is independent of Gartner Group analysis and in no way should this information be construed as a Gartner Group endorsement of Microsoft's products and services....
Gartner has subsequently claimed that the results represent Gartner's research, and that the research had not been funded by Microsoft. But what is one to make of the "Microsoft Web Letter," published on Gartner's site? "Published by" and "funded by" evidently mean different things.

[Update: it is interesting note that, since October 19, Gartner has changed the fine print on the above articles so that it no longer mentions Microsoft. Trust us that it was previously written as above. Artur Skura points out that another article in the same series retains the old copyright at the bottom - until they change it too...]

Meanwhile, a separate group called Bloor Research did its own looking at Linux and Windows NT. This study was intended to evaluate the two systems in "real world" environments. They compared nine different categories; Linux won on six of them, tied on two, and came out behind on only one of them (application availability). As Bloor says in its press release: "The verdict is clearly in favour of Linux"

The Atlanta Linux Showcase is over. Our coverage of the site is available on the LWN/ALS Showpage. Many thanks to the ALE volunteers for their work on this year's show and for offering us the opportunity to work with them.

A couple of the features we did that were linked to the show page are worth (in our biased opinion) a closer look. The ALS also sponsored a development hothouse for The XFree86 Project, with help from SuSE and VALinux. We cover the results of that hothouse in this report. The hothouse may have been the key to making the release of XFree86 4.0 possible this year.

In another example, not sponsored by ALS but held in conjunction with the show, Loki Games and Activision put together Loki Hack 1999, 48 hours of access to the source code for the Linux version of Civilization: A Call to Power, to allow the hackers to add features, change the rules or otherwise modify the game. Although the results will not be open source, they will also not be folded into the commercial game, but made available for free in binary form on the Internet.

What is the tie between the two events? Both were examples of commercial organizations giving back to developers, not in monetary terms, but by providing them with travel money, organization and opportunity to get together to do what they love best. From the happy faces we saw in the closing press conferences, this was one method of "giving back" that generated a great deal of good will and verifiable results.

Another bit of heat in the distribution war. Consider for a moment a quote from this New York Times article (registration required). The subject is the potential fragmentation of Linux: "But Linux vendors are already pointing fingers. 'One [place] where you might see a problem is Caldera, because they see part of their value added in proprietary tools they have licensed from third parties,' said Bob Young, Red Hat's chief executive."

Now, this is a pretty mild shot, even considering that Red Hat is not all that far away from the days when it, too, bundled in proprietary software. But it's a troubling sign of what the future holds. As the amount of money that pours in - and the amount at stake - grows, the currently good-natured competition between the distributions may well turn ugly. Even if none of the current players are inclined toward ugliness, even with anxious stockholders to face, others will come in who certainly are.

Our Linux world is going to get stranger. With luck and some care, the Linux culture and community will prove strong enough to survive even as full-scale capitalism rages around it.

LWN headlines available for use on other sites. It took us an unbelievably long time to get around to it, but we finally have set things up so that other sites that want to run LWN headlines can do so. Please see this page for details on how it works if you are interested. Thanks to the several sites which are already carrying LWN headlines.

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Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: Open source crypto exports legalized?, lpr problems
  • Kernel: 2.2.13 finally, why advanced Linux networking isn't used.
  • Distributions: Alzza Linux, Red Hat 6.1 glitches
  • Development: The mystery application contest, Linux development survey
  • Commerce: LinuxToday acquired, ATI supports Linux.
  • Back page: Linux links of the week, letters to the editor.
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

October 21, 1999


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