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Fiorina: Merger would be a boon to Linux

Hewlett-Packard's chief opens the LinuxWorld confab in New York by saying a merged HP and Compaq has the best shot at speeding the advancement of the operating system.

NEW YORK--Hewlett-Packard's planned merger with Compaq Computer will speed the advancement of the Linux operating system, HP Chief Executive Carly Fiorina said Wednesday.

"This is a combination that's good for Linux," Fiorina told the hundreds gathered here for her opening keynote speech at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. "We are more powerfully positioned to lead the march in open standards and Linux than either company could on its own."

She also said Linux embodies the same spirit of industry-changing innovation demonstrated by by HP founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard. Fiorina has often invoked this spirit of innovation to defend the planned merger with Compaq.

Fiorina is the most vocal proponent of the merger, leading a battle against Walter Hewlett, son of HP co-founder Bill Hewlett. Walter Hewlett, an HP board member, argues that the merger would drag down HP's profits.

But Fiorina repeated an argument that companies must be willing to accept change. "The minute you start defending the way things are instead of improving them, you have lost what got you there in the first place," she said.

The merger, announced last September, is intended to make a computing giant that can compete with IBM's Global Services division. HP and Compaq prefer the Intel technology that is sold by many companies to IBM's more proprietary hardware such as mainframes.

Fiorina also encouraged Linux fans not to waste too much energy fighting Microsoft, which is dominant in desktop software but faces much more competition on the powerful networked computers known as servers. Linux, a clone of Unix, is most popular in servers.

"While I know this industry loves a good dogfight--boy, do I know--the truth is our collective energy can be put to much better use," Fiorina said.

"The reality is that Microsoft solutions on industry-standard hardware are a mainstay of the industry, especially on the desktop. It will remain a solution," she said. "The question for us is not will Linux dominate the world. The question is what part of the world will Linux dominate?"

Linux would benefit from a resolution to the debate about licensing intellectual property from standardization groups, such as the World Wide Web Consortium. Currently, standards bodies let intellectual property be licensed under "reasonable and nondiscriminatory" terms, but standards for Web infrastructure should be available free of royalties, Fiorina said.

Fiorina also called for more Linux software, more Linux support personnel, standardization of Linux through the Linux Standard Base and Free Standards Group, and improvements to ease of use, installation, and management.

HP's mission is to help take Linux out of niche technical markets and into mainstream companies. As evidence of this initiative, Fiorina pointed to partnerships with the bank HSBC, Viawest Internet Services,, Speedera and DreamWorks' digital movie animation studio.

Linux is different from other operating systems because it's cooperatively developed by many companies and people, Fiorina said.

"The achievement of our collective work is greater than the sum of our individual efforts," she said.

This spirit underlying Linux has withstood Linux's spread to corporations. "Linux has been able to stay true to the spirit of its revolutionary roots while developing into a solution that can meet the needs of big businesses," Fiorina said.

Fiorina, perhaps seeing how well IBM has done with its move to embrace Linux, lavished praise on the movement.

"Like all other great steps forward, the skeptics out there said it wouldn't work, won't sell, can't be done, won't succeed," yet Linux has done all that, Fiorina said. "Never underestimate the power of a good idea."