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Linux fans to flock to Moscone

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The penguin-heads are here.

More than 11,000 people, fans of the Linux operating system and its penguin mascot, dive in to the annual LinuxWorld conference at Moscone West this week. The conference, featuring 180 companies, runs today through Thursday.

Linux, that famously free open-source software, has come on strong in recent years. More than half of all U.S. companies will use some form of Linux by the end of this year, according to a prediction by AMR Research.

And IDC, the research arm of International Data Group, which is putting on the trade show, says that Linux now commands 20 percent of the market for server software, and it is expected to grow almost 20 percent by 2008.

Although servers represent Linux's most significant market, Microsoft still dominates even there, with Windows software accounting for 63 percent of shipments. Linux's growth has come largely at the expense of Unix and of Novell Netware.

"Linux is up there with the big players," said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems software research at IDC of Framingham, Mass. "It's been No. 2 since 1998, which is a pretty rapid ramp when you consider it first became a commercial product in 1993."

To Dave Rosenberg, the conference director, Linux has appeal economically, socially and technologically.

On the financial side, he said, "people don't want to be locked into things they way they were in the past." For instance, he said, if a company buys customer relationship management software, it could go with a major player, like Siebel Systems, and pay "literally $1 million in licensing fees," or it could go with an open-source alternative like SugarCRM, which sells a version that includes tech support for $40 a month.

Big software firms like Microsoft and SAP, once threatened by open source, are now working with it because their customers demand it, Rosenberg said. They'll be represented at the conference.

"It's a big deal," Rosenberg said. "It's a huge cultural shift."

Information about the conference is online at Exhibit hall passes cost $35.

By Dan Fost
San Francisco Chronicle.

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