It's open-source week, folks, with news pouring out of the
LinuxWorld gathering of software developers in San Jose.
The conference's Big News is the effort by a batch of the
technology industry's heavy hitters to propel Linux into the
Microsoft-dominated market for desktop operating systems. And a
Cambridge company is at the movement's center.
Companies including Compaq, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard,
IBM, as well as organizations centered around the software,
including Red Hat, TurboLinux, VA Linux and Free Software
Foundation, have pledged to support a new organization called the
The foundation is designed to unite developers and corporate
partners, with the goal of creating a complete set of Linux-based
applications that can provide true competition for Microsoft
Windows operating software.
Developers love Linux, which has openly available source code
and can be adapted, modified or have applications added by anyone
and, in its less complex forms, is distributed for free. Its
insider popularity has helped it grab almost a quarter of the
market in software packages for larger computer servers.
But, after a flurry of news and investor fascination last year,
Linux has languished in the consumer desktop market, accounting for
just 4 percent of sales last year, compared with Microsoft's
Red Hat (RHAT), which sells
souped-up versions of the free operating software, was last year's
biggest Linux star, but since January it has lost more than 85
percent of its market value.
Into the breach steps the Gnome Foundation, which will attempt
to make Linux more consumer-friendly. Central to this effort is the
Cambridge firm Helix Code,
which has created a Gnome desktop software designed to be as easy
to use as Windows or Apple's Macintosh. Helix Code's chief
technical officer, Miguel de Icaza, is the founder of the overall
Gnome project, dedicated to
The support of big company partners is seen as crucial both in
adding up-to-date applications that will make the software more
popular and in installing it in popular hardware, such as IBM
ThinkPad laptops and Sun's Solaris computers.
de Icaza said, "The support of these industry leaders will help
us to achieve our dream of building a fully free, easy-to-use
desktop environment that will be used by many millions of
Helix Code CEO Nat Friedman said, "For Gnome, the next step is
applications. Now, industry and developer support has rallied
around the Gnome platform and major contributions are coming in
from all sides. We will soon offer a total desktop solution that
will reshape the industry. Gnome has arrived."
The Gnome Foundation has also created an advisory board, whose
members include a Needham-based, not-for-profit software standards
consortium called the Object
Management Group. The OMG has developed an industry standard
called Corba that allows all applications to work with each other,
regardless of platform or language.
de Icaza said, "The OMG has a lot of experience creating and
managing standards involving a wide range of corporate interest. I
think that we can leverage the OMG's expertise in these areas to
our advantage. Its involvement also gives OMG members a chance to
understand the needs of the Linux community and build
specifications that take our needs under consideration."
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