Will Ubuntu Linux Break Through on the Desktop?

Canonical, caretakers of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, will release its new 7.10 Desktop Edition today. It sports a raft of new features that just may just give it the best chance to take share away from Windows on the desktop.

What has some industry analysts all excited about version 7.10's -- also known as "Gutsy Gibbon" -- desktop fortunes is its 3D graphical interface along with its automatic printer driver installation. The latter has perpetually stood as one of the annoying roadblocks for wide audience acceptance of Linux by desktop users. Many users have walked away from their first installation of Linux on a desktop machine because they couldn't get it to work with both new and older printers in their shops.

The flashy new graphical interface may prove to be more than just eye candy. Linux has had a couple of other graphical interfaces before, but none as rich-looking as this one. Some are boldly saying that version 7.10's 3D interface, built on top of the Gnome 2.20 desktop, will give Windows Vista and Apple's upcoming Leopard a run for their money.

The new version also contains improvements for laptop users. It offers full external VGA support right out of the box, and can be more easily configured when hardware is switched around. Also, new support for automatic firmware installation for Broadcom Wi-Fi cards has been added.

So far, larger IT shops have been more interested in the idea of Linux on the desktop than in actually having it on their desktops. That interest has stemmed from wanting to eliminate the expensive licensing fees Microsoft imposes on Windows users, along with a handful of other technical shortcomings. But with the underwhelming response to Vista among corporate accounts -- many of whom claim to have no plans to deploy the operating system this year and even next -- coupled with Ubuntu 7.10's set of capabilities, the door has never been more open for a Linux offering to walk through.

Users interested in downloading version 7.10 can go here.

Getting More Social Around the Office
Atlassian, a well-known wiki provider, and NewsGator Technologies Inc., a well-known developer of RSS technologies, announced they're working cooperatively with another well-known company (Microsoft) to create greater Web 2.0-based social computing opportunities around Office SharePoint Server 2007.

According to Derek Burney, Microsoft's GM in charge of SharePoint, the collaboration with the two companies should result in new opportunities for "integrating social computing technology into a company's business productivity infrastructure."

One NewsGator executive, Dave Keller, GM for Enterprise at the company, was almost giddy about the deal, saying he believed companies of all sizes are starting to look to SharePoint as the foundation for social computing development.

Speaking at the fourth annual Web 2.0 Summit yesterday, Burney said that Microsoft's use of social computing includes a commitment to create up to 100 next-generation business applications on the SharePoint platform by next calendar year. He also noted that the Community Kit for SharePoint (CKS) 2.0 -- a volunteer-driven initiative to develop a set of best practices, templates, Web Parts, tools and source code -- enables even novice users to create a community Web site based on SharePoint technologies. More information on the CKS is available here.

Microsoft officials said they expect revenues from SharePoint technologies to exceed $800 million for fiscal year 2007.

Services Growth Fuels IBM's Third Quarter Results
IBM, always a reliable bellwether for the overall health of the high-tech industry, reported solid revenues and earnings for the third quarter yesterday, which were buoyed by the performance of its services unit.

While its overall earnings were up 6 percent, Big Blue's hardware sales fell some 10 percent to $4.9 billion. Some of that decline can be attributed to the recent sale of its printer division, but what was more notable were the numbers turned in by its mainframe group, which were down a whopping 31 percent. Chip sales, which were off by 15 percent, also disappointed some analysts,.

IBM's software group, perhaps the most profitable group in the company during the past few years, grew by 7 percent to $4.7 billion, although it would've been only 3 percent without shifts in the dollar.

But the best news came out of the company's mammoth services group, which reported revenues growth at 14 percent to $13.7 billion. What was at least as impressive was the 27 percent up-tick in pretax profits. Company officials reported that IBM signed some $11.8 billion in services contracts in the third quarter, up from $10.5 billion in last year's third quarter.

Overall revenues rose 7 percent to $24.1 billion, up from last's year's $22.6 billion, with earnings of $2.36 billion, up from last year's third quarter figure of $2.22 billion.

Mailbag: Don't Worry About Larry, More
Yesterday, Lafe reported on Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's decision to sell 2 million shares of Oracle stock. Is this a bad sign for Oracle? Most of you don't think so:

It's interesting what information people lock in on. Ellison has personally traded 14 million shares in the past year for a total of $248 million. To take this a little further, LAWRENCE J ELLISON REVOCABLE TRUST traded 50 million shares at $1.042 million and ELLISON MEDICAL FOUNDATION traded 3 million shares at $50 million during the same time period. Does this mean Oracle is in trouble? I don't think so at all.

Oracle has a debt/equity ratio of 0.35 and just placed a bid to purchase BEA for $6.6 billion cash. I think Oracle is strong and doing well and old Larry is smart. He is leading Oracle on a quest to purchase technology companies that complement Oracle strengths by propping up weaknesses. Don't be fooled into thinking Larry is bailing out because he knows something the rest of us don't. He didn't get to where he is by being stupid. Look at the numbers and make up your own mind. I already have and I'll stick with Oracle. Oh, I think I'd purchase a couple of those shares he no longer needs.
-Paul

Interesting article about Ellison's sale of stock, but pretty small deal. Check into Billie Gates' sales in the last year(s). Likely not all going to charity.
-Mark

$44 million to you and me is a huge chunk of change -- but in the world of America's Cup racing, $44 million might get you a few design changes. See the magazine ANSYS Advantage (volume 1, issue 2 of 2007, pages 3 through 6). Each team spent 150,000 (yes, one hundred and fifty THOUSAND) labor hours just to optimize their boats. So $44 million MIGHT cover the cost of, let's say, a few sim runs. (I'm an amateur sailor so I found the article very interesting.)

It also depends on how many shares Larry still owns. If that was his last 2 million shares, I'd be worried.
-Bruce

In the wake of a Webroot survey that found most SMBs ill-prepared to protect themselves against Web threats, Lafe asked readers how they keep their networks safe. Here's Karl's response:

We use MessageLabs to manage our incoming mail and Web traffic. Some firewall rules so that no mail is accepted from anyone except MessageLabs and some MX records, and we've had no viruses and only a tiny handful of spam for years. Also some more firewall rules to prevent all traffic except that going through port to the Web scanning proxy and all incoming Web traffic is guaranteed cleaned of malware.
-Karl

Want to add your 2 cents? Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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