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Microsoft's LinuxWorld booth attracts notice but not crowds

LinuxWorld attendees are both impressed and disgusted that Microsoft is making its presence known at this year's conference. Some are pleased that the software giant has recognized that the Linux operating system is a viable competitor to Windows, but others feel Microsoft is only hoping to earn a quick buck.

SAN FRANCISCO -- While it is significant that Microsoft has a booth at this week's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, that doesn't mean attendees are impressed.

SearchWin2000 spoke with several attendees on the show floor, and none were rushing to Microsoft's booth.

Fred Vassard, a senior lab assistant at Devry University in Newark, Calif., runs Red Hat Linux, Windows NT and Windows 2000. Does he plan on stopping by the Microsoft booth?

"Probably not," he said. "It's sort of against the point of the show and seeing what's out there in Linux."

Microsoft, though, is hoping for visitors. The company is at the show to demonstrate its developer tools and the interoperability features of Windows Services for Unix 3.0.

"The number one message is that we would like attendees to stop by and talk to us," said Peter Houston, Microsoft's Windows platform senior director.

"We want to hear their points of view. If they want to talk to us about the technologies we're showing in the booth, that's great," Houston said. "If they'd just like to come by and tell us what they think we could be doing better, that's great, too."

"Three years ago everyone was pooh-poohing Linux," said Caprice Settles, a consultant/MVS systems programmer for the U.S. Postal Service in San Mateo, Calif. "Two years ago maybe IBM was starting to sell, and Oracle was saying its products could run on Linux."

Settles said Microsoft is at the show only because it doesn't want to miss out on revenue, but that many attendees at the show are there to find alternatives to Microsoft products.

"No vendor can force its proprietary-ness on the customers... that doesn't fly any longer," Settles said. "We get what we want now."

Mary Murphy, a senior IS engineer for the city and county of San Francisco, runs IBM OS/390 and Windows and is at the show to look at IBM's Linux offerings. She said Microsoft's presence bodes well for customer choice.

"It's good that Microsoft is here," Murphy said. "Obviously, they're seeing that they finally have some competition. We need the competition in the marketplace to push through more new and better products."

"Having major companies backing open-source initiatives like Linux is only going to be a good thing for the market," said Shane Caraveo, a senior developer at ActiveState of San Francisco. "It's going to produce some competition and perhaps foster some innovation. Maybe it'll get Microsoft to open up a little more, which would be a good thing."

Dana Briggs, an IT manager at Appliance Parts Equipment in Santa Rosa, Calif., has a suggestion.

"It would be good if Microsoft worked more on making Windows a more stable environment," she said.

Linux developers maintain that the open-source operating system is more stable because, unlike Windows, anyone is privy to the source code and free to improve it.

Briggs, whose company uses Unix and Windows PC, said she doesn't think Microsoft will ever open any of its source code to the masses.

"Not if they can get away with not doing it," she said.


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