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Linux goes mainstream

Once the sole preserve of programming geeks, Linux, the open source operating programme, is turning the heads of the world’s mightiest computer companies.

Recent converts are the database giant, Oracle, and IBM - who are currently running a series of television and online ads promoting the open source Linux ideal.

This interest from global players isn’t a new phenomenon. Large companies have been benefiting from Linux for years because of its open source ethos.

They use it to run large servers and networks, the benefit being…they get it for free!

Though IT spending is expected to increase this year, the majority of large companies are citing cost reduction as their number one priority for 2004, according to an NOP World Technology Confidence survey.

This makes Linux particularly attractive as a low-cost alternative to other operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows.

Linux is also proving popular in the public sector, according to a report by BBC Online.

Governments like the idea of not paying a proprietary vendor huge licensing fees year after year.

They also like the fact that open source software allows them to modify the code themselves.

Sun Microsystems is currently working with the Chinese Government on open-source software development.

China wants to use Linux to create its own, home-grown software industry.

According to Simon Phipps of Sun Microsystems it's all about keeping the money in your local economy

"If you spend a dollar with a local company working on Linux, that dollar stays in your economy," he said.

"When you spend a dollar with a multi-national corporation as a license fee for a piece of software, that dollar leaves your country."

And that is why some think open-source could be the way of the future, especially for developing countries.

Dimo Calovksi, who works on development issues at the United Nations, believes open source could tap into the developing world's natural strengths.

"It is natural for people in the developing world to make do with little, and to produce something of value out of nothing," he said.

It seems almost romantic to insist that a choice of operating systems could create the sort of techno-utopian idea that academics have debated for years. But it’s a conviction that is spreading - across companies, countries and continents.

Sources: BBC Online, New Media Age, NOP World, QNB Intelligence

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