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Linux creator: We will crush Microsoft

Bill Gates may think Linux has limited appeal, but the operating system's creator has no trouble packing the house with fervent supporters.

CHICAGO--Bill Gates may think Linux has limited appeal, but the operating system's creator had no trouble packing the house here today with fervent supporters.

Linux inventor Linus Torvalds rallied his troops and took shots at operating system rival Microsoft at a press conference held at Comdex Spring/Windows World trade show.

Fresh on the heels of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates's keynote just down the hall in the same building, Torvalds outlined the success of Linux, welcomed growing industry support and confidently presented a sunny market outlook for his open source operating system.

Torvalds said Linux will reach success because Windows is "just not good enough."

A big reason for Linux's early acceptance is that "what was out there was not good enough. Microsoft does a lot of pretty good programs and they really suck at other things," Torvalds said to a cheering audience, made up mainly of Linux supporters.

Torvalds said in 1991 there was just one user of Linux--him. Currently there are more than 7 million users, and he said he expects it to "take over Windows as the most popular" operating system, which caused an even louder eruption of cheers from the audience packed into a conference room at Chicago's McCormick Place exhibition hall.

He also pointed out the growing support for Linux, from large, established computer technology firms, such as IBM, Dell, SAP, and Compaq.

"Psychology is changing about Linux from scary freeware to corporate acceptance," he said.

Concerns of "splintering" or "code forking" also came up in Torvalds speech.

"Someone could come up with Fredix," Torvalds said, referring to potential attempts to develop a completely new operating system based on Linux. "But [with Linux] the changes you make have to be made available to everyone. Nobody has the potential to screw over other users," he said.

Open source developers long have been aware of--and rival Microsoft has often pointed out--the phenomenon of "code forking," in which different programmers pursue different avenues, leading to different versions of what was once the same software. In open source programming, any person can get access to the source code, or original programming instructions.

"There has been a lot of thought put into showing people that splintering is not good," he said.

Although he did not have any specific time frame, Torvalds did say he expects Microsoft to jump on the Linux bandwagon with a port to its Office desktop suite. "It will eventually happen because we will crush them," he said.

Many observers have suggested that Linux could one day challenge the supremacy of Microsoft's Windows, a notion that Microsoft executives are quick to dismiss.

Microsoft's Gates, in a speech last week, said he sees only a limited role for Linux in its current form, due mostly to the complexity of testing and support. He said Microsoft took Linux seriously but felt that most customers would continue to favor Windows, which offers a consistent user interface, over Linux, which support at least five different user interfaces.

But there are signs that Linux may soon become simpler to use. Earlier today, Caldera Systems released OpenLinux 2.2 today, a novice-friendly version of the upstart Unix-like operating system.