An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Windows Server 2003, Linux Experience Sharp Growth
According to a report from market researchers at IDC, sales of Windows Server 2003- and Linux-based servers are on the rise, thanks to a move toward less expensive, PC-like servers. Revenue from systems running Windows Server grew 10.3 percent year over year to $3.4 billion, and unit sales rose 21.4 percent, IDC said. Meanwhile, Linux server revenues grew 49.8 percent to $743 million; unit shipments of Linux servers increased 51.4 percent. The trend toward smaller, less expensive servers seems to be benefiting PC companies as well: Although Dell is still in fourth place in the overall server market, the company grew 11.6 percent in the quarter and is now ready to overtake number-three server maker Sun Microsystems, which produces large, expensive, proprietary machines. (IBM holds first place, followed by HP.) And speaking of large, expensive, and proprietary, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that the UNIX server market, with a 3.8 percent year-over-year revenue slide, is on the way out. UNIX is still the largest server segment, valued at $4.1 billion for the quarter, but IDC says that situation can't last.
Gartner: Linux, Not Windows, Will Kill UNIX
And speaking of problems with UNIX, the masters of the obvious at Gartner revealed this week that they believe Linux is a much bigger threat to UNIX than it is to Windows. The company says that 60 percent of large enterprises will migrate 80 percent of their UNIX-based applications to Linux by 2008. And after 2008, Gartner says, "most vendors offering UNIX will provide OS maintenance support only, continuing the trend several years into the next decade."
Gates: Windows Less Expensive, More Secure than Linux
And speaking of Linux, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates was speaking about Linux just this week. He noted that Linux is "a significantly more expensive solution" than Windows and that Linux is less secure. "If you look at security," he said, "there are three things to consider. One is the number of critical security updates. We are significantly better than Linux or UNIX on that. The second would be how quickly you make these updates available. We are significantly better than UNIX or Linux on that. The third thing is propagation. If you have a virus or worm that is scanning to go find somebody else to hop to, and you don't stop propagation, then popularity is your enemy. So this is a bigger problem for us than for other platforms. No one else stops propagation, but we have to. It's our fault--a faux pas--that we didn't make it clear to customers how to prevent propagation. And that is something that we are going to provide to customers. We are going to give them free tools to do that." Gates's comments fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and for that he's sure to get a lot of flack. But I've always believed that a blind trust in unproven Linux capabilities would come back to haunt people. Regardless, no one should dismiss the amazing security work Microsoft is doing: No other company is working that hard on security right now.
Gentoo Linux Servers Attacked
And speaking of Linux and security, Linux backers faced another embarrassing security breach this week when an attacker remotely compromised one of the servers that Gentoo Linux uses to update users' computers. After trying to fend off the attack, Gentoo technicians eventually took the server offline, the second time high-profile Linux-based servers have been forced offline in as many weeks. (In late November, an attack took four Debian Project servers offline.) "We have a very detailed forensic trail of what happened once the box was breached, so we are reasonably confident that the \[software\] stored on that box was unaffected," Gentoo Linux representatives said in a message to users. "The attackers appear to have installed a rootkit and modified/deleted some files to cover their tracks, but left the server otherwise untouched. The box was in a compromised state for approximately one hour before it was discovered and shut down. The method used to gain access to the box remotely is still under investigation."
Schools Get a Microsoft Price Break
One of the prickly topics that arose in the wake of Microsoft's intellectual property licensing revelation this week was how the new licensing will affect educational institutions, which for years have been licensing much of this technology at a steep discount. Well, fear not: Microsoft has also slashed licensing costs for schools, saving them 20 to 37 percent when compared with earlier licensing costs. "Teachers have told us they want to be using our software," David Burrows, director group manager for Microsoft UK, said. "It's very popular, the children's parents use ... it at work. We're just recognizing the popularity of our products." Naturally, schools are a great place to get started with acclimating people to Microsoft software. But many schools, especially those with computer-science programs, are keenly interested in free Windows alternatives such as Linux.
Will Vietnam Be Microsoft's Vietnam?
Vietnam revealed this week that it's beginning a process of adopting open-source software (OSS) solutions. "We are trying step by step to eliminate Microsoft," Nguyen Trung Quynh, a member of Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology, said. Specifically, the country is looking into software such as Linux and OpenOffice.org that's free and can be downloaded from the Internet. Part of the appeal of OSS is that it could help eliminate the country's rampant software-piracy problems, a thorny situation in the wake of a recent trade agreement with the United States. Because Vietnam's populace is so poor, most commercial software is simply too expensive.
Malaysian Pirates Sell Longhorn Alpha. But Why?
And speaking of Southeast Asia, Malaysian software pirates are selling an early alpha build of Longhorn, the next Windows version, in street markets for less than $2. The alpha build, which Microsoft handed out to developers in late October at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003, is hardly indicative of Microsoft's final plans for Longhorn and, in many ways, barely works. Why nondevelopers would want it to begin with is unclear.
Good News: Intel Raises Revenue Forecast
In what might be taken as a sign that the economy is improving, Intel raised its fourth-quarter revenue forecast this week. Thanks to stronger-than-expected holiday sales, the company now expects income to fall in the $8.5 to $8.7 billion range, up from its earlier estimate of $8.1 to $8.7 billion. "If you look at how this company is positioned right now, there's no reason for anything but optimism," Pacific Crest Securities Senior Research Analyst Michael McConnell said.
Bad News: Hard Disk Sales Fall
Although Intel forecasts are up, sales of hard disks fell 0.3 percent year over year in the most recent quarter, indicating that the oft-delayed IT financial turnaround still isn't happening. The poor sales happened despite ever-decreasing hard disk prices and ever-increasing capacities. "We are not seeing some great turnaround out at the hardware-infrastructure side," IDC Group Vice President John McArthur said.
Good News: Best Buy Reports Sharp Increase in Holiday Sales
But wait, there's more. Holiday sales at Best Buy were up 8.6 percent over a similar period last year, leading some analysts to predict that the economy is back on track. The sales increase at Best Buy was the largest jump in quarterly sales in more than 2 years, the company noted. Competitor Circuit City experienced an increase as well, with a 4 percent rise in post-Thanksgiving holiday sales.
AOL Offers $299 PC
Everyone's favorite dominant ISP introduced an intriguing offer this week: Agree to use AOL for a year, and you can purchase a low-end PC from the company for just $299. Although the deal seems like a bid to stem the flow of subscribers eager to get out from under the multicolored, dumbed-down AOL interface, the offer actually appears to be decent, assuming you're not into playing the latest 3-D games. Of course, you can get a decent Dell system for not much more than the cost of the AOL PC plus the service (about $585 when you add it all up). For more information, check out the AOL Web site.