More Noticings from LinuxWorld Expo SF

After attending LinuxWorld Expos for a few years, I noticed a certain trend starting… that is, desktop Linux usage appears to be visibly on the rise. Considering I was attending a Linux-centric show, one would think that’s a given–but it’s not. I’ve been paying attention, informally (this is no scientific survey), to what people use at these shows. At many of the previous LinuxWorld Expos and Open Source Business Conferences I saw that not only a lot, but probably the majority of the attendees were using Windows-based laptops and more interesting was that a significant number of the presenters were using Microsoft Powerpoint on Windows for their slides.

With the variety of companies present at these shows not all of them should be expected to be pure-Linux or FOSS shops. A lot are providing a particular sort of software that happens to support Linux among other OSes, so it’s not entirely surprising that they’d be running OSes other than Linux. Still, at a Linux show, they ought to put their best feet forward. Anyhow, this time there were quite a few presenters showing slides with OpenOffice running on Linux. As I spied attendees typing away on their laptops, I saw that a lot were also running Linux. The predominant distro appeared to be a version of SUSE. Does the SUSE dominance portend something in the future of Linux-based business desktops?

As an aside, Linspire tried pumping the exhibition center full of its pheromones and jumped everyone in site, thrusting shiny boxed copies of its distro (with free manuals and other goodies). Always curious, I accepted. Linspire has no aspirations to the enterprise market, focusing solely on the home user, which makes them a bit of an anomaly among major Linux distros. Even other easy desktop distros like Ubuntu, Mandriva, and Xandros seem to have a few enterprise aims.

The Creative Commons had some great promotional items (and a well-done bit of DVD propaganda). My donation got me a snappy shirt that would either please Campbell’s soup or Andy Warhol–it’s hard to say which would have been more impressed. I was also instructed to take not one pin, but whole handfuls of pins until blood gushed from my palms. The trick now will be distributing them, maybe I’ll place them on the seats of some Metro cars.

And what about the enterprise apps? It would be nice to see more variety in the way of FOSS enterprise applications at LinuxWorld Expos (IT management, security, and development-related apps feel dominant, although as Linux gains home users, I wonder how the show will change to cover their interests?) A few of the enterprise app high-points included OpenBravo, which is an interesting new open source ERP system. I’ll have more on them (via TEC) in a bit. CentricCRM was visible and trying to show how it could be more appropriate for a large enterprise than its popular open source sister, SugarCRM. Finally, I’d like to mention Adaptive Planning, which although it has been in business for some time using an ASP model, just released its business performance management software under an open source license several days before the show. Adaptive Planning now is offering an on-line service as well as an on-site implementation with several different commercial options.

As a last note, in attending a presentation by Ingres’s CTO and strategy VP, Dave Dargo, he made a point about something like up to 80% of most IT organizations’ budgets go toward maintenance. If I understood him correctly, I think he was making a point about how the many existing proprietary vendors aren’t really interested much in new innovations with their customers in-mind, rather there is a lot of incentive to focus on all the clients spending money on old projects. I reflected on some of the recent acquisition press, and maybe I’m slow to have this really sink in, maybe it’s been quite obvious, but if this is the case then it puts a certain perspective on the motivation behind the Oracles, the Infors, etc. gobbling up so many competing companies. Does it matter so much whether they can offer a better solution for the customers of these gobbled-up companies? If they can integrate the wide range of systems? Is it mostly just important to them to milk a larger stable of maintenance customers?

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