TECH TALK: Linux World: Eye-Catchers

Among the things which caught my attention at Linux World:

Sharp Zaurus SL-500: It is a Linux PDA. Sleekly designed, it has a built-in tiny keyboard. It comes with many applications, including a terminal window, text editor, address book, to-do list, a media player and an image viewer. Best of all is the Opera browser which comes bundled with it. Connect the Zaurus to a CompactFlash Modem card, and within minutes you could be browsing the Web on the PDA. There are also some games, one of which is a Word Game like Scrabble). The Zaurus runs Lineo’s Embedded Linux and also claims to have support for Java (have not yet checked this out). The Zaurus was selling at the show for USD 399. PDAs by themselves are old hat, but Linux on PDA is a novelty. From an emerging market perspective, what is interesting is the small footprint of Linux. The embedded version could as well as used to create a desktop which can run on older, low-cost machines.

Linux Terminal Server Project: In a small booth was an open-source project which, according to me, holds a lot of promise for emerging markets. The project showcased a thin client application of Linux on a desktop. No Hard Disk, No CD. It boots off an Ethernet EPROM, which fetches the kernel from a Server. According to the developers, it can work well on even 486 machines with 32 MB memory. Again, by itself, the thin client approach has been used in the past, but taken together with an idea discussed earlier in Tech Talk of using old PCs from
developed countries to create USD 100 computers for the emerging markets, the idea of using the LTSP to create a low-cost computing infrastructure in the enterprise definitely has potential.

Hancom Office: This Korean company offers a Microsoft Office alternative. So does Star Office. What’s interesting is that it was one of the non-US companies at the show. Asian companies need to get aggressive in marketing and Hancom was an excellent example of that at the show.

Linux in Movies: The tone was set by Carly Fiorina’s keynote, wherein she announced a deeper partnership with DreamWorks for using Linux in the movie studio. For some time, Linux has been increasing its presence in the animated movies segment in the production process. Shrek was an example and the forthcoming Spirits from Dreamworks also is being developed on a Linux platform. Pixar, which created Monsters, is also extensively using Linux. If there is one vertical which Linux is capturing, it is this.

Among the other interesting things at the Linux World trade show were the spotlight on the Linux Standard Base and its support from various organizations (CSFB announced that it will only use LSB-compatible applications by the end of 2002), a Linux kit for the Sony Playstation 2 and Ximian’s Evolution (particularly attractive was the stall with a collection of huts).

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.