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Linux Expo: Cold Enough for a Real Penguin

by Kevin
Reichard

Linux partisans love nothing more than to meet, and this was
made abundantly clear this week at Linux Expo North America:
neither bad weather (eight inches of snow, below-average
temperatures) nor a general malaise on the business side of Linux
could deter thousands of penguinistas from attending the show in
Montreal’s Palais des Congres.

They were met by over 100 Linux vendors, ranging from leading
Linux distribution vendors (Red
Hat
, Stormix, Linux-Mandrake, all of which
are either headquartered in Canada or have Canadian offices) to
smaller vendors (Zend, TimeSys, VMware) to venerable Linux grassroots
organizations (Linux
Documentation Project
, Free
Software Foundation
).

Over 700 attendees crammed a lecture hall on April 11 to hear a
series of keynotes. Making the most news was Dr. Michael Cowpland,
president and CEO of Corel Corp.
A true swashbuckler in an industry filled with pirates, Cowpland
surprised the audience by announcing Corel’s ambitious plans for
the future. “Corel has a tremendous Linux push underway,” he said.
“We expect to have more than 18 Linux applications of our own by
the end of the year.” He added that a vote on the Inprise/Corel
merger had cleared antitrust hurdles and should be put to a vote of
both boards within 90 days.

Before the show there had been talk that this show would be
noteworthy for two reasons: it was the first Linux gathering after
Microsoft’s defeat in court, and it was the biggest show held in
Canada to date. While the crowd was large, it wasn’t necessarily
the corporate crowd organizers were hoping for: “This feels more
like the McGill student union than a real trade show,” said one
vendor who asked for anonymity.

The general malaise comes from the devaluation of Linux stocks
in the marketplace (Red Hat,
VA Linux, Cobalt Networks, and Ottawa’s Corel Corp. all have seen their stock
prices slip in recent weeks), even though as a whole Linux usage
keeps rising dramatically. “We got to valuation levels that were
away from reality and potential,” Michel DeLavergne, technology
analyst at BLC Securities Inc. in Montreal, told The National Post.
“In the case of Linux I think it’s still a very early game and a
lot of these stocks got way beyond that. They’ve corrected to more
reasonable levels now.”

There weren’t many major announcements at the show (notables
like Linuxcare passed on the show, while other major players like
VA Linux System had a minimal presence), as most vendors are
waiting until next week’s Linux Business Expo (held in conjunction
with Spring COMDEX) to unveil new products. Worth noting: Acrylis
Inc. announced a service, whatiflinux.com, that would
monitor Linux workstations and servers, alerting system
administrators when there are potential incompatibilities or
problems when changing software versions. Noteworthy is a “what-if”
feature that will predict what will happen should software packages
be updated.