Linux is moving to the client world, which is quickly growing beyond the basic PC interface to include cell phones, medical devices, and even automobiles, said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's VP of technology and strategy. "Linux is unique for its ability to work across every architecture" from servers to PCs, he added.
Sun Microsystems is banking heavily on the success of its Java Desktop System, which has been shipping since December, and Java-based developers' tools running on Linux. Sun sees the market as looking for an alternative to migrating from Windows 95 or 98 to Windows XP. "The desktop is a stepping stone in Sun's overall network-computing strategy," said Simon Phipps, Sun's chief technology evangelist.
Neil Stein has been playing with the newest Linux kernel on his home system, but it'll be a while before version 2.6 is ready for the business world. "It needs to have one of the major distributors shipping it before it can be sanctioned for work," says Stein, lead infrastructure manager at pharmaceuticals giant Merck & Co., which is running its Web infrastructure on Linux.
The newest version of the Linux kernel improves Linux's scalability. While the previous kernel version ran on servers with as many as eight processors, version 2.6 will run on 16-way servers, according to Wladawsky-Berger. "It pushes Linux into the hard-core enterprise sector," he said.