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IBM adding Linux support options

On Tuesday, Big Blue will belatedly announce technical support in 165 countries, as the industry's most prestigious firms continue adapting their services to the open source software.

The computing industry's most prestigious manufacturers continue to adapt their services to accommodate the Linux operating system, so-called open source software that doesn't belong to anyone.

On Tuesday, IBM will announce forthcoming technical support for Linux in 165 countries, marking another stage of acceptance. Big Blue's step is a bit late, however, as the giant earlier said its global Linux support would be in place by June.

Server companies are currently experimenting with providing technical advice and support for Linux, a tricky feat because the highly customizable software can vary from user to user.

Growing support options are an indication of Linux's gradual incorporation into mainstream computing companies, not to mention installation at businesses in many industries. The software has sometimes been shunned because executives worry that no technical support is available to remedy problems.

Among the industry leaders, Hewlett-Packard handles hardware issues, but passes support calls to its Linux partner, developer Red Hat. Additionally, HP only offers support in the United States and Europe.

Dell entrusts LinuxCare to handle technical support, even though the version of Linux it installs is from Red Hat. Compaq is working on a support partnership with Red Hat and should have its technical support set up in coming weeks, the company said.

Currently, Big Blue offers free telephone or email technical support for 90 days after a customer's first call for Red Hat and Caldera Systems editions of Linux. By August, IBM will add SuSE and TurboLinux into its support plans, the company said.

IBM has 150 consultants who can, for a fee, help customers with Linux decisions, IBM said. IBM's global services division has been a growing part of its business, and several other companies are trying to emulate its success.

Server manufacturers also are offering hardware--server computers and workstations--that accommodates Linux. Several now offer to sell the software pre-installed.