Big Blue's Love Letter to Linux

by Doc Searls

Go to the Linux at IBM page (the top item when you search for Linux from the company's index page), and you'll see the .GIF on the left (which we converted to a .JPG before we burned the original--we run a GIF-clean site here), which links to a promo page with an even bigger .GIF--animated, no less, plus a bunch of marketing copy. Click on the graphic and you get this annoying .swf (Flash) animated slide show. Somebody on staff here found a real web page with the same show, only bigger and just slightly easier to navigate. So we thought, for those of you aren't able to view (or stand) the whole show, that we'd copy and share it with you. All in the spirit of Open Source, of course--and in spite of the fact that the source of the copy in question is anything but open.

It wasn't easy.

First, it was an ordeal just to get the presentation to run. I couldn't look at it with my Linux box at all. Netscape just sat there. When I looked at it in Netscape on a Mac, Page Source brought up this mess (which I've cut down to just the HTML-standard characters):

FWS!fÀŒÊÌÔboîomZ3]ÖÚM F‰8àP'KÚe£ãÖ £ŒZ©#inw`7l{j|ÿ£gÿ] S[,¤ª3[`i´EVèúÛ(ʧh¿Œ†/'à-F,뮿.zrh`9j~XnrkrmF%ü7†è@

So I froze the animated frames and transcribed their "content". I won't tell you how I did it, because it doesn't matter. What does matter is that you appreciate the effort--and then gang-urge IBM to get with the program, and give the world an HTML site that conveys the same copy in actually useful form. Tell them to feel free to build on our work right here. We offer it freely, of course.

Here's the opening copy:

What is "Peace, Love and Linux?"

A rallying cry. A clear, enthusiastic synopsis of IBM's excitement about Linux and support for the Linux community.

Here's "peace"

WHY IS IBM SUPPORTING LINUX?

Because we admire it, we believe in it, we need it and it's good for customers.

IBM's vision is to help build the business infrastructure of the future, drive towards dynamic e-business and integrated, intelligent infrastructure. The complexity and demands of this vision are staggering, mind boggling. We've looked hard at what it will take to get there, and two facts have become clear.

First, we'll never get there without wide adoption of open standards like Linux.

Second, the complexity of the task is so great that IBM simply can't do it alone. No company can do it alone (although some still suggest otherwise). Only the concerted effort of the larger technology community can make it happen. And only the Linux movement can marshal that effort.

IS IBM TRYING TO "OWN" LINUX?

No, not at all. No one owns it and no one will. That's why it's an open movement and a global community. Our role, like any member of the community, is to assist it, contribute to it and champion it. IBM has put a stake in the ground: we are now and will remain a strong contributor to and evangelist of the Linux movement.

If it succeeds, we all succeed.

DOES THIS MEAN IBM IS GIVING UP ON OS/390®, AIX AND AS/400®?

Absolutely not. Linux is complementary to our existing platforms. Linux makes each of these platforms more useful and more valuable. The strengths and roles of each now benefit from the flexibilities of Linux.

The real beneficiaries are customers and the Linux community. IBM server customers gain all the upside benefits of Linux. With no compromise to get there. And the Linux community gains the best hardware technology in the world.

In Q4 2000 IBM shipped 100% more OS/390 MIPS than the previous year. And AIX sales were up 49%. Both platforms can run Linux applications. Again, the Linux movement is all upside.

Here's "Love":

IS THIS COLLABORATION IDEA REAL OR JUST FEEL-GOOD STUFF?

Real. Very real. If you think it's just fluff, you've missed the point.

IBM spends $5 billion a year on R&D. And we're putting a billion dollars behind Linux. But all that is nothing compared to what the Linux community will generate spontaneously.

This is a new way of looking at the world: companies, alliances, partnerships and individuals working together, each contributing their particular expertise to create a "massively parallel thinking" force that is immeasurably more powerful than any single entity, including IBM.

ISN'T LINUX ABOUT YOUNG REBELS WEARING SANDALS AND HACKING ALL NIGHT?

Yes. And no.

Yes, in that the Linux movement embodies a spirit of creativity and the "whatever it takes" drive that always accompanies profound change.

No, in that the Linux movement has a track record of real accomplishment and discipline that any formal company (large or small) would love to call its own. A few examples:

*Linux is the fastest-growing server OS.

*One out of four new OS installations in 1999 was a Linux installation.

*Linux is projected to comprise 38% of all new OS installations in 2004.

*Linux is global-and-hardware agnostic.

SO WHAT DOES IBM CONTRIBUTE TO THE LINUX COMMUNITY?

We put Linux on the mainframe.

We're Linux-enabling our entire server line.

Linux is becoming the reference platform for all IBM development.

It's not there yet but it will be.

We're spending $300 million over the next three years to create mission-critical-level service and support for Linux.

IBM created and supports the Linux Technology Center to jointly develop projects with the Linux community.

We even built a Linux watch.

The list goes on and on.

Here's "Linux":

SO WHY LINUX AND NOT SOME OTHER PLATFORM?

At the technology level, the answer is integration and standards.

Integrating platforms and software is the real road to the next generation of truly seamless infrastructure. The open standards of the Internet made it possible to integrate networks. Linux will do for applications what the Internet did for networks.

Like the Internet, Linux is the next open, freely accessible standard around which the IT and developer world is rallying. Once the standard is agreed upon, innovation and progress accelerate. Linux is the agreement.

WHAT DOES LINUX MEAN FOR CUSTOMERS?

Ask them yourself.

Interoperability: When was the last time your IT staff told you that application A cannot exchange data with application B because they run on platforms C and D?

Integration/Development: Ask your IT people where they spend more time: retrofitting the way your company does business to fit an inflexible proprietary OS or tuning and customizing a flexible OS to deliver exactly what your business wants to achieve.

Skills: Kids all over the world are learning Linux every day. The overwhelming preference for Linux by young technical people is turning future generations of skilled programmers into future generations of skilled Linux programmers.

Resources: Which OS vendor offers a development team with the best brains in the world, thousands of global beta testers, millions of customers, and support for every hardware platform?

HOW DOES LINUX HELP IBM COMPETE?

Linux is the future.

IBM is betting on Linux because it's good for the IT industry, good for the Linux community, good for IBM and good for IBM customers.

The same is not true for some of our competitors who, despite repeated overtures to the "open" philosophy and the Linux community, remain tied to proprietary legacy systems.

OPEN SOURCE. OPEN DOORS.

Explore the future of IBM and Linux with IBM President and Chief Operating Officer Sam Palmisano. Read his keynote address from LinuxWorld Expo 2001.

Mercifully, Sam's keynote is in HTML.

Credit where due: IBM is trying to do the Right Thing. Their sentiments seem sincere, even though they are obviously expressed by a copywriter (like I used to be, back when I sold my soul cheaper than it goes for today).

But hey, guys: save the money. Run your ads on TV and in magazines, but please respect the Web for what it isn't--a natural advertising medium. If your Web Marketing money is burning a hole in your pocket, let some of it leak into, say, the Open Source Initiative. They need it, and it'll help them accomplish a bunch of the objectives you just bragged about.

Meanwhile, burn your GIFs and put your mouth where your money is: move your Linux promo site onto a Linux server. This one's running on an AIX.

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