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Linux Kicks Butt at Comdex'99

Nov 22, 1999, 11:19 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dwight Johnson)

By Dwight Johnson
General Manager
Linux Today

In such a stellar year for Linux, it might seem that the Linux Business Expo at Comdex'99 in Las Vegas with only 68 Linux vendors was somewhat less that climactic. But in many ways, Linux Business Expo was the most remarkable Linux event yet.

Last year, the Linux Pavilion was on the ground floor of the Sands Convention Center. This year, it was not a pavilion but Linux's own Linux Business Expo in the Las Vegas Hilton running concurrently with Comdex.

Last year, Comdex'98 in Las Vegas was an exciting expo for Linux. Never before had so many vendors (12) exhibited. For the first time, these were assembled into a Linux Pavilion garnering much excitement and press.

I attended Comdex'98 as a media correspondent for Linux Today, then less than two months old. Linux Today had only recently acquired its first advertiser, Linux Hardware Solutions, now part of VA Linux Solutions.

Certainly the Linux Pavilion of Comdex'98 was one of the busiest of the show. Attendees thronged the aisles and the lines in front of some booths were five deep at times.

Comdex'98 seemed something of a coming out party to old hands in the Linux community. But nothing in that event foreshadowed the astonishing Linux explosion in the year that followed.

Already by March 1999, LinuxWorld Expo, sponsored by IDG, had one hundred vendors exhibiting and 12,000 attendees, 6,000 alone to hear the Linus Torvalds keynote. And many more equally successful expos and conferences followed throughout the year.

In 1994 when Mark Bolzern with Robert Young opened the first Linux exhibit booth at Comdex, they set as a goal to have Linus Torvalds give a Comdex keynote within five years. Last Monday evening on November 15, 1999, that goal became a success when Linus Torvalds gave the last of four Comdex keynote addresses, delivering a compelling message of Linux and open-source advocacy to a packed house of 6,000 largely Microsoft Windows users. Torvalds seemed extremely relaxed, poised, polished and even charismatic -- this was by far the best Torvalds speech I have yet heard.

The remarkable success of this year's Linux Business Expo, produced by ZD Events under the direction of Sonny Saslaw, was recognized Wednesday night at the Penguin Playoffs awards ceremony when Byte.com magazine and CMP publications awarded it 'Best of Show' for Comdex'99.

A flurry of press announcements punctuated the event. Perhaps the most significant of the announcements was the acquisition of Cygnus Solutions by Red Hat Software.

Also important was the exciting and on-schedule release of the Corel Linux distribution, preparing the way for the release of the Corel office suite for Linux in the first quarter of 2000.

Besides the Torvalds keynote, the week's highlights included keynotes by Robert Young of Red Hat, Michael Cowpland of Corel, and Ransom Love of Caldera. Other highlights were the Linux Learning Center, a hands-on Linux training center sponsored by Caldera, the Linux COMmunity Hub sponsored by LinuxMall/SCO which included booths representing many of the prominent non-profit Linux and Free Software and open-source projects and the E-Mail Garden sponsored by VA Linux Systems, where attendees could check and compose e-mail on dozens of Linux-enabled workstations.

Over 38,000 attendees made this the best attended Linux expo yet.

Linux Today was privileged to be the official Linux streaming radio for Linux Business Expo in partnership with ZD Events. From a 60 x 20 foot theatre flanked by Caldera, SuSE, Andover.net and AppGen in the center of the exhibit hall, Linux Today delivered 36 hours of continuous programming to the assembled audience and streamed over the Internet in mp3 via Icecast from our Dallas-based server.

With Emmett Plant as host and Paul Ferris as audio engineer, Linux Today interviewed many Linux notables throughout the week and these audio interviews will be made available from the Linux Today Web site.

Most enjoyable of all were the many opportunities to share information and rumors with other members of the Linux community. There was a perceptible excitement and anticipation of many more good and profitable times ahead among the Linux vendors. The community feeling was extremely strong and created a cooperative business climate among competitors which quite possibly has never existed before in this or any other economy.

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