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IBM maps out company-wide Linux strategy

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IBM has just held the first of a series of internal Linux summits to thrash out the company's Linux strategy, according to Joe Barr of LinuxWorld. The summit itself was IBM-only, but Barr managed to get an interview with the IBMer responsible for setting it up, and he seems to have been pretty forthcoming. (Full interview text) Robert LeBlanc is VP of software strategy in the Software Solutions Division, and is also responsible for developing the company's Linux strategy, which means he deals with Linux in all of IBM's units, including hardware, software and services. From what LeBlanc says IBM is both enthusiastic about and committed to Linux. The company is porting all its "key software products to Linux," and is considering supporting more distributions than the four it currently does, Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE and TurboLinux. He reveals that the possibility of IBM doing its own Linux distribution has been considered, but this would appear to be an unlikely move. "We are more worried about making sure that the Linux community doesn't diverge [like Unix]," he says. But he speaks fluent IBM - he says the company isn't going for its own distribution at this point in time. Barr tried him on porting SmartSuite to Linux, but LeBlanc responded only that the possibility was being looked at. He's not quite so good on the preinstall question. He says that IBM's licence agreements with Microsoft don't penalise it for preinstalling a non-Windows OS (we at The Register don't entirely believe him here), but that "contract terms" interfere with the company's ability to preinstall Linux. "We're just trying to make sure that there is no exposure to any of the IBM patents." Translated, this means IBM faces difficulties in putting its IP technology into the open source pot. That explains what went wrong with the Red Hat certification of the ThinkPad 600e, which happened despite the fact there weren't any modem drivers , but LeBlanc says IBM is going to fix that, and that there will be drivers. Beyond that, he says that IBM will do preinstalls, across the whole of the NetFinity and ThinkPad product lines. That means there will be a lot more code coming out of IBM, but he appears to want to play it out gently, with committed individuals within IBM associated with it when it happens. ® Full interview

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