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Sun has to wake up to little SuSE

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Yesterday IBM beat Sun to market with Java for Linux, announcing separately-negotiated distribution deals with Caldera Systems, Red Hat and TurboLinux. A similar deal with SuSE is expected. The IBM JVM and developer kit should hit the stores in mid-February, although Caldera will be expecting to release its e-business server with Java support at LinuxWorld Expo in New York at the beginning of February. Red Hat is expected to include the Java goodies in its next enterprise edition in mid-February. TurboLinux will wait for the next release of its product. IBM may well find that being first-to-market gives it a first-mover advantage, although Sun is expected to release its Java 2 for Linux this quarter. IBM will get its WebSphere for Linux as well as VisualAge for Java distributed with the Caldera offering. At IBM's Partnerworld conference in San Diego yesterday, senior vice president Sam Palmisano said "We're tired of having sand kicked in our faces by former IBMers", a not-too-subtle reference, since on the screen behind him the Sun and EMS logos were gunned down by an animation of IBM's e-business logo. These jinks were understandable enough, but it does not alter the fact that in its software efforts, IBM has turned from being a fumbler (DOS and OS/2) to a follower (NT, Java, Linux). Sun president Ed Zander told analysts last week that "it amazes me to watch IBM and all those other companies chase Linux the way they did Windows NT five years ago." IBM's main announcement in San Diego was its WebSphere Commerce Suite (previously called Net Commerce) and WebSphere Commerce Studio. IBM hopes that with these products it has covered the business-to-business, the business-to-consumer, and the e-marketplace markets. IBM is clearly very sensitive about Sun at the moment, with chairman Lou Gerstner delivering a clear-enough videoed message to delegates: "Go out and kick some butt in the marketplace". An immediate objective is to take Unix share from Sun, perhaps with the help of the new RS/6000 model that was announced (44P Model 20, using copper technology), which was described as "the world's fastest four-way Web server". According to Dataquest, in the Unix market in 1999, Sun has a third of the market, with IBM being second in units shipped but third in value, behind HP. ®

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