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Unix Futures: Six Vendors Look Ahead

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Unix and Windows data-center market share remain neck-and-neck, according to most analysts, but many in IT perceive Unix and Linux innovation as slowing to a crawl. We interviewed representatives from Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Novell, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems who were eager to challenge that perception by highlighting areas in which their Unix OSs are breaking new ground.

Although actual installations are impossible to count, Linux is still well behind Unix and Windows in sales, but many big Unix vendors are taking significant steps to support the open-source operating system--some are porting their Unix applications to Linux, some are writing drivers for Linux so their platforms are supported, some are even offering Linux as an alternative to their flagship operating systems. Do these moves reflect the reality that keeping Unix fragmented and closed is a losing proposition, or are they simply a bid to cut development costs and take advantage of the work the open-source community has done? Probably a bit of both. Publicly, most Unix vendors spin their embrace of Linux as "utilizing what is rapidly becoming the standard operating system."

Still, while Linux is taking share from Unix and Windows in data center servers, workstations and client locations where only a thin client is needed, Linux is not the end-all, be-all solution. It still lacks Windows' ease of use and some advanced feature sets that select Unix vendors are offering. Let's not lose sight of the fact that Unix is still a rock-solid OS that brings to the table unparalleled stability, reliability and adaptability features--virtualization, for instance. And some Unix vendors are offering interesting products and guarantees not available for Linux; we highlight many of these in our product profiles, which are based on extensive interviews in which we discussed vendor initiatives and plans.

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