Notes from CeBIT

by Richard Vernon

Language barriers aside, there was a strong showing of Linux companies from the United States and elsewhere. At the Linux Pavilion, Linux Journal shares floor space with 13 other Linux companies and organizations, including Midas Electronic Services, Trolltech and Linux International. The Linux Exchange Guide to Linux Vendors at CeBIT 2001 lists 98 Linux-related booths, with countless other companies displaying products compatible with the open-source operating system. SuSE, Caldera and Red Hat also had large, extravagant booths that were always bustling.

Our own Linux Journal booth was also highly frequented, and we ran out of our more than 4,000 copies of the magazine, three days prior to the conference end.

The fatherland of SuSE showed itself to be very enthusiastic about the possibilities Linux presents. Evidence of this includes the consecutive visits of two important German cabinet members to the Linux International booth to speak with Jon "maddog" Hall.

Jurgen Trittin, the German environment minister, was interrupted in his discussion with maddog by the sudden appearance of a protestor yelling and scrambling into the Linux International booth. The protestor, distraught over the minister's policies involving nuclear waste, was soon led away quietly, and maddog was able to continue his evangalizing. With both Trittin and German CDU Party leader Dr. Angela Merkel, maddog pointed out the size of the Linux community and the number of Linux companies as two advantages of embracing and Linux. He also emphasized that the use of Linux could be increased greatly by the development of more applications and by augmenting the teaching of computer programming at the high-school level.

Further attention was drawn to Linux when KDE2 was distinguished as one of three finalists in the PC Professional Innovation of the Year award ceremony held at CeBIT on the night of March 22nd. The judges were booed by the largely German audience when the announcer proclaimed Microsoft 2000 as the winner. The hostility toward Microsoft may have been influenced by the recent announcement by the German foreign office that they are banning the use of Microsoft, and indeed all "American" software, on computers used in security-sensitive areas. This announcement came after suspicion arose that the NSA is somehow in league with the Redmond-based software company to discover Germany's military secrets through access to MS source code.

Dedication to Linux was also shown by some exhibiting German companies that are developing software to make Linux a more viable desktop alternative for German businesses. One example was CoreBiz, a company who has integrated Sun Microsystem's StarOffice with Parity Software's financial software and Trustix's security technology to create a single, preconfigured package.

Despite recent drops in technology stocks, the number of CeBIT exhibitors and attendees increased considerably from last year. In the first three days of the show, more than 350,000 visitors toured its halls, and the number of exhibitors is up from 7,412 just two years ago to the current 8,106. With the European Information Technology Observatory predicting a 9.6% world-wide growth rate for 2001 and the increasing global interest in Linux evidenced at CeBIT 2001, the future is looking bright for those Linux companies able to survive the current lull.

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