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Linux Goes Mainstream

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When Oracle's buttoned-down president Charles Phillips gives the opening keynote address and there's not a silly penguin costume in sight, you know the grownups are in charge at this year's LinuxWorld.

After two days, the big Linux trade show here hasn't produced any big surprises or high drama. But there is plenty of evidence that the alternative operating system is sitting solidly in the mainstream. So solidly that "over 50% of our customers will use Linux in the next five years, if not sooner," Phillips said.

By most measures, Linux is growing faster than any other operating system, although the same measures show that the free alternative is still very much a minority in both business and home computing. In 2004, sales of Linux server software grew by 44% to $4.25 billion. But the overall market, which is still dominated by Unix and Windows, totaled $46.2 billion, according to market researcher IDC.

Even David Patrick, who heads the Linux efforts of Novell, admits that a world in which most people run Linux on their desktop computers -- a bit of hype that once received a surprisingly credulous reception -- is far off. "We feel like it is a long road for us. It certainly has not been an overnight shift," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Still, Novell, which seemed slow to get off the mark in the Linux business and still lags well behind rival Red Hat, has had some significant wins this week.

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