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Szulik: Desktop Linux dominates discussions

SAN FRANCISCO--Use of Linux on personal computers may not have made major inroads against leader Microsoft, but it has become prominent in conversations with information technology executives, Red Hat Chief Executive Matthew Szulik said Wednesday.

"It is a dominant element in most of my discussions," Szulik said in a meeting with reporters here Wednesday. That's a far cry from actual sales, of course, but it's a big change from two years ago, when the subject rarely came up, Szulik said.

Two software packages have been invaluable to the desktop Linux movement: the alternative to Microsoft Office and the Firefox Web browser. Sun Microsystems made the once-proprietary suite open-source software in 2000.

"Firefox has been an enormous help," because it's provided a standard that server software companies including Oracle and SAP can support instead of just Microsoft's Internet Explorer, he said.

The next barriers desktop Linux needs to surmount are Microsoft's ActiveX, Visual Basic and Active Directory software, Szulik said. Customers in Europe haven't linked their computing equipment as tightly to these packages, he said, which is why it's the location of most of Red Hat's customers using desktop Linux on thousands of computers.