I See All

I am happy to report that I've finally completed Madame Pearl's "Clairvoyance for Fun and Profit" correspondence course. For the modest tuition of $1,000, I've received hours of expert instruction via webcast, a sheepskin for my office (soon to be parlor), a deck of tarot cards autographed by Madame Pearl herself, and a shiny new iBall, a wireless crystal ball that peers into the future.

I am happy to report that I’ve finally completed Madame Pearl’s “Clairvoyance for Fun and Profit” correspondence course. For the modest tuition of $1,000, I’ve received hours of expert instruction via webcast, a sheepskin for my office (soon to be parlor), a deck of tarot cards autographed by Madame Pearl herself, and a shiny new iBall, a wireless crystal ball that peers into the future.

So far, I’ve used the crystal ball to set the editorial calendar for the magazine, choose Lotto numbers, do my taxes (I see refund), and play the ponies (my bookie is gonna be pissed!)

But today, I’m interested in the future of Linux. I wonder what lies in store… (Oh, yeah. I have to turn it on. The thing runs on like ten “D” batteries, but at least it has 802.11g. The picture is forming. Aha!)

I see happy users typing away at Linux desktops. I see carefree system administrators frolicking on the beach, because their Linux servers never crash. I see SCO offices in Linden, UT condemned and shuttered. I see Scott McNealy wearing a penguin suit. Huh? Either my crystal ball suffers from bad reception or it’s truly prescient.

Think about it. Imagine what would happen if Sun suddenly adopted Linux and Open Source wholeheartedly.

Linux would power the entire spectrum of Sun hardware, from thin client to big iron. A separate and independent Java Foundation would steward the development of Open Source Java and would administer Java certifications. Sun would be a contributing member to Eclipse. And once and for all, Sun’s Linux strategy would make sense. Of course, Solaris would still be offered — at least a short while or in name only — to customers that request or need it, and it would be augmented with the best software from Open Source foundries. And McNealy could still thumb his nose at Microsoft.

All in all, powerful stuff, and a perfect match for Sun. Among all top-tier vendors, Sun has the longest history with Unix systems. One could argue that Sun invented the Unix desktop, and Sun was certainly one of the first Unix companies to capitalize on the need for Internet server software and hardware. (Indeed, in the mid-1990s, the Web reinvigorated Sun at a time when it desperately needed a new big idea.) Sun’s expertise shouldn’t be discounted.

Unfortunately, that’s not how investors see it, and customers may be dumbfounded too, as Sun’s recent income statements have shown. While HP, IBM, and Apple reap benefits and profit directly and indirectly from adopting and embracing Open Source and Linux, Sun seems to be playing games, renaming N1 as N1 Grid, conducting “secret negotiations” with the Eclipse Consortium, and coloring everything with the Java rubric.

My crystal ball isn’t an Open Source zealot. It merely looks into the future. Of course, the trick is knowing which future is being shown and changing the channel from HBO to Discovery. Sun’s future is up in the air, yet the company has a unique opportunity to parlay what it knows how to do — and do well — into growth and innovation. Better yet, Sun can draw inspiration from its Silicon Valley neighbors, especially Apple, who’s littered Panther Server with an inordinate number of Open Source tools.

So, here’s a tip for Scott McNealy: Call Madame Pearl and get hooked up to the future. And if you’re at the horse track, spot some of that Sun stock of yours on “Linus’ Pride.” It’s favored.

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Martin Streicher, Editor

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