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Oracle moves to support Linux desktops

NEW YORK -- Linux advocate Oracle Corp. is all talk and more action. Besides touting its huge Linux project with online mega-retailer at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo last week, the company's execs are talking about Oracle's actions and plans on the Linux desktop front. In this interview, Wim Coekaerts -- principal, Oracle Linux Kernel Group Corporate Architecture -- explains why the software giant is turning its attention to the Linux desktop. He also looks back at Linux's success in 2003.

Several CIOs have told me that Linux on the desktop is on their agenda, but not for a year or so.
Yes, I've heard that, too. One of the reasons that we have to be a little bit ahead of customers is that they will not consider doing such a thing unless we say that Oracle will work with it. It's one less thing for them to worry about when we say: "This will work, and we will support it." coverage of LinuxWorld

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Oracle's customers have expressed interest in Linux on the desktop, but have any made the move yet?
I can't say I have seen a whole lot of companies move to that yet. It is probably a difficult process, given their [unfamiliarity with] OpenOffice compatibility. I think it just takes some time for companies to be more comfortable with that. Is Oracle working on supporting Sun's Java Desktop System and Novell's Ximian products?
They are a good partners of ours, and we have had lots of discussions on those topics, but there is nothing concrete today. We obviously discuss where they are going and what we are planning to do, and [suggest that] if we support Mozilla, they should have Mozilla on their desktop systems. Normally, there are not any issues.

SuSE is one of the two distributions that we support. I guess we'll see what happens with Novell's plans with integrating Ximian into the SuSE systems. Other than Oracle's success stories, what's Oracle's message at LinuxWorld?
We have gotten more and more requests for [support for] Linux on the desktop. We're letting our customers know that they can do that if they want to. So, aside from just focusing on the server, we are going to support Linux and Mozilla at the client level. We are going to make sure Linux on the desktop works with Oracle's [software].

It is relatively easy for us to enable Mozilla as a browser because most of our applications are Web-based. In a keynote at the last LinuxWorld in San Francisco in August, we demonstrated that we could use OpenOffice with documents coming out of Oracle Collaboration Suite. We are going to be showing that Linux desktop systems can work with a lot of local systems. I think you will see more and more of that coming soon. What do you see those Linux converts and Linux wannabes doing in 2004?
Now, an interesting thing is happening: People want cheap hardware and a solid, high-performance operating system. So, having Oracle say that Linux actually does work has made a big impact. But, rather than just switching to Linux and saving money, companies switch to Linux to have money left over in their budget for other things. And this year they'll probably extend [their Linux investments], and it is really exciting. Besides the backing of major vendors like Oracle, what was the primary factor that drove the upswing in enterprise Linux migrations last year?
Last year was just amazing [because] the Linux adoption rate increased so dramatically. In the middle of the year, companies were more, well, daring, because they were forced to be. They really had financial issues and still had to get their IT infrastructure up to date. They realized that with Linux they could buy enough hardware at a reasonably low price and get the performance needs met, too.

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