Although today's announcement takes one modest step in stating Hewlett-Packard's general position on Linux, the company's overall strategy still remains diffuse and less than exciting in vision, coherence and platform differentiation.
With HP's declaration of Linux as a strategic operating system, virtually all major Unix sellers have said that Linux is vital in their technology offerings. However, all vendors do not approach Linux in the same way.
HP has been somewhat disorganized in its earlier attempts to articulate its position, as fragments of Linux and open-source projects--for example, print servers, E-Speak and Linux for PA-RISC--have appeared in numerous parts of the company, with no unifying management or central focus.
The most compelling part of HP's strategy is the willingness to move most of its systems software--OpenView and MC/ServiceGuard--to Linux. HP also emphasizes its starring role in a Linux software developers' kit for IA64.
However, HP stops short of declaring Linux an all-platform strategy, as IBM has. Rather, HP takes a position closer to the strategy taken by Sun Microsystems: develop on Linux but deploy on Unix for the enterprise.
Leading with NetServers and selectively, in technical applications, with PA-RISC, HP is using Linux to cover all bases and capitalize on opportunities, much as other companies do. Along with other companies, HP still seems to have little idea of how financially viable a broad Linux strategy will be and how much it can afford to compromise in giving back vital, proprietary technologies to the open-source community.
(For related commentary on Linux vs. Unix vs. Windows 2000, see Gartner.com--free registration required.)
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