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BREAKFAST WITH THE FOOL

Friday, October 1, 1999

"It may be those who do most, dream most."
-- Stephen Leacock

Sun to Pull Back Shade on Solaris

By Richard McCaffery (TMF Gibson)

Network computing products and services provider Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) plans to freely release the source code for its proprietary Solaris operating system to catch the rising tide spurred by Linux, an industry-sweeping operating system free to all users.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Greg Papadopoulos, Sun's chief technology officer, said the company has completed its internal debate on the matter and just has to decide the best means for distributing the code.

Under the plan, Solaris source code would become openly available, but users would still have to pay Sun licensing fees to use it in any commercial environment, the Journal reported. Programmers would also be required to report glitches and provide open access to any changes made in the code. Linux, on the other hand, is free for anyone to use in any application.

The company hopes releasing Solaris' code will spur greater use of the system and encourage developers to design new applications, much the same way developers have improved and added features to Linux.

Linux is a Unix-based operating system designed by software developer Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland. The software, notoriously fast and efficient, has recently gained popularity, especially as a potential competitor to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows. Solaris is Sun's Unix-based operating system, used to run all of its popular servers and workstations.

What does this mean for investors? Hopefully innovation, competition, and opportunity. Consider Linux developer and distributor Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT), which packages Linux programs and offers a wide range of support services. The company had one of the most successful IPOs this year, debuting August 10 at $14 per share and quickly shooting up more than 500%. It closed yesterday at $98 3/16.

News to Go

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has awarded pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) approval to market Evista for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis, a condition affecting approximately 23 million American women.

Copper mining company Phelps Dodge (NYSE: PD) ended its hostile takeover effort of Cyprus Amax (NYSE: CYM) by reaching agreement to purchase the mining outfit for $1.8 billion in cash and stock. The deal also ends a previous merger pact between Cyprus and metals producer Asarco (NYSE: AR).

Long distance phone and communication services company AT&T (NYSE: T) acknowledged that it's exploring options with respect to its 26% interest in Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM).

Property, casualty, and life insurance provider Hartford Financial (NYSE: HIG) estimated that damages from Hurricane Floyd will cost the company $70 million to $80 million in pretax charges. Total pretax catastrophe charges for Q3 will be in the range of $100 million to $110 million, compared with $61 million a year ago.

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