CeBIT and Linux in the News

by Phil Hughes

CeBIT 2000, the largest computer show in the world, runs February 24 through March 1. CeBIT is a 30-year-old show held in Hannover, Germany each spring. Last year, there were more than 7000 exhibitors and 700,000 visitors. With such a massive show, it is hard to make dinner reservations within 100 miles of Hannover during the show.

While not a Linux-specific show, it is one of the best events to announce new products. Also, with Linux on the fringe and going for the mainstream, it is an excellent opportunity for Linux vendors to get an audience with the rest of the computing crowd. Which provides an excellent opportunity for me to see what the Linux community is doing to pitch to that crowd.

The best rumor comes from LinuxCare's Arthur Tyde. On February 24, he said he had heard there were 34 developers working at Microsoft to port Microsoft Office to Linux. Being in Seattle, we have been hearing related rumors for some time, such as porting Internet Explorer to Linux. We hope to have more details in time for Tuesday's radio show.

There is much in the way of news for the embedded Linux scene. First, a product announcement from Samsung. They are introducing a whole line of Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) devices. The first, named Yopy, is based on the ARM processor and has a four-inch LCD display, embedded web browser, MP3 player and a slot for Compact Flash ROM.

This device is expected to retail for $400 to $600. Future models will have voice recognition and wireless capabilities. All will be based on Linux.

Samsung is apparently using Embedix from Lineo, the Embedded Systems arm of Caldera. Lineo has been moving along in embedded systems with seven strategic alliances in addition to the one with Samsung and an acquisition. Six of the alliances are with Taiwanese electronics manufacturers and the seventh is with DaiShin, a Korean computing and communications company.

Lineo's acquisition was Rt-Control, a company that is creating a real-time version of Linux for devices such as cameras and cars. Lineo previously signed agreements with Motorola.

I mentioned two weeks ago that Microsoft had settled with Caldera on its suit regarding DR-DOS. This added $250 million to Caldera's coffers, which Lyle Ball, VP of marketing and communications for Lineo, said would be used primarily for acquisitions. This was excellent timing, as Caldera had previously filed for an IPO. The current numbers are five million shares, priced at $7-9 each. More information should be available on Caldera's web page. They will be listed on Nasdaq under the symbol CALD.

While we're talking stock, VA Linux Systems just reported their second-quarter earnings. They were $20.2 million, which is up 537% from a year earlier and 36% from the previous quarter. If you read the financial report, you will hear about all the good things that have happened and how their growth is good. That said, I'm not sure they have convinced the financial market, as their stock price dropped 9% the day after the announcement.

Another big company to announce a Linux-based product is Ericsson. Theirs is a wireless telephone with a display screen, which allows you to browse the Internet while using the phone. This isn't a cell phone; it is more like a typical cordless phone you might use at home. It features a color touch screen. Expect it to arrive in the US near the end of this year. Communications to and from the phone will use Bluetooth technology.

Bluetooth is a communications standard, intended to replace cables and infrared communications for many devices. Details of the standard can be found at National Semiconductor makes a chip set that implements the Bluetooth standard.

In another CeBIT announcement, National Semiconductor announced that NEC is using the National Bluetooth chip set in a new notebook PC. As NEC is a semiconductor chip manufacturer themselves, this announcement feels as if NEC is testing the waters; if they see a market, they will end up doing their own chip manufacturing.

With Corel's serious involvement in the Linux market, no show would be complete without announcements from their camp. Sure enough, they announced partnering with S3 to own 3D Graphics on the Linux Desktop. S3 is a video chip set manufacturer which had lost its luster to companies such as Matrox. Corel, in addition to all their recent Linux work, was made famous by CorelDraw!, a rather amazing vector graphics program that has also been receiving lots of hits due to compatibility problems in the MS-Windows market. The two companies jumping into Linux together could help them both move back into top positions in their markets.

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