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Linux Lines Up

The very term "open source" might have always implied a certain lack of standardization, but that's about to change for Linux, according to news reports today. One of the operating system's biggest hurdles to mass adoption shows hints of being overcome.

According to the reports, many of the big names have agreed to adhere to Free Standards Group's Linux Standard Base 2.0. The companies that have agreed reportedly include IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , Dell (NYSE: DELL  ) , and Intel (NYSE: INTC  ) .

One hot topic of conversation around the press today is that this move will be a way to deflate one of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) major claims against Linux: that fragmentation and a lack of interoperability made Microsoft solutions the easy choice.

The time certainly seems ripe for those peddling Linux to make the push. Microsoft's well-publicized security and patching problems have some computer shoppers wishing for other options. Microsoft's also got its hands full with a variety of other projects, such as its hopes to catch up with Google in search, in just one example.

Meanwhile, signs that Linux could be poised for some degree of mainstream success include its forays into Asia (which likely compelled Microsoft to strip down its own offering) as well as its forays into Wal-Mart, where it may woo bargain shoppers. Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT  ) and Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL  ) have eyed bringing Linux into mainstream corporate life. IBM recently unveiled plans to get some of its open-source products into universities, for theoretical charming of the next generation.

More good news included last week's word from Yankee Group, reporting that 20% of the IT executives it surveyed planned to migrate a portion of their Windows systems to Linux, with 15% planning to add some Linux desktops, though not replacing Windows systems with them.

It's all interesting news, underlining increasingly mainstream interest in Linux, but it's still all relative. After all, market researchers still expect Linux to run on only about 1% to 2% of PCs this year. With all the mixed messages and interest from high-profile corporations, investors can be sure that it's an area to keep an eye on -- but quite likely not one to bank on just yet.

Are you a Linux user? Are you thinking about becoming one? Talk about the ins and outs of the open-source operating system with other Linux fans on the Linux User's Group, only on

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Though she doesn't think it's ubiquitous, she suspects that more people than one might expect play around with Linux.

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