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Sun, IBM take server brawl to the streets

Sun Microsystems offers to help one of its fiercest rivals in the server market undo a Linux marketing campaign that backfired.

Sun Microsystems has offered to help IBM, one of its fiercest rivals in the server market, undo a Linux marketing campaign that backfired.

IBM's "Peace, Love and Linux" push involved spray-painting symbols on sidewalks, a move that didn't sit well with city officials in San Francisco and Chicago. The symbols--a peace sign, a heart and the Linux penguin mascot--were supposed to have been written in an impermanent medium, an IBM spokesman said.

Officials in both cities have threatened to fine IBM and make the company pay clean-up costs, an IBM representative said. Sun offered on Friday to help IBM erase the symbols.

IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino said IBM has halted the sidewalk logo part of the campaign.

One source within IBM said the company had thought appropriate permits had been obtained and that the ads had been removed, but the company later found neither to be the case.

Sun made the offer on Friday night, just before the company's Worldwide Volunteer Week ended Saturday.

The IBM representative declined to comment on whether IBM was reciprocating by helping Sun to take down ads from its ill-fated campaign touting Sun "the dot in dot-com." Some of those ads still were visible recently on billboards in Silicon Valley and Europe, despite the collapsed Internet business.

IBM and Sun are locked in a struggle for the market for Unix servers, a market that Sun dominates. The two companies have been taking potshots at each other for months.

One area of dispute has been over Linux, the Unix-like operating system that IBM has embraced wholeheartedly, devoting $1 billion to the operating system in 2001.

Sun executives have derided the initiative at Big Blue, saying IBM is grasping at Linux the way it grasped at Windows for servers in earlier years. Sun believes its Solaris version of Unix is better and that IBM is distracted by having so many different operating systems to support.