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Ericsson and Red Hat team to build Linux challenge to MS .NET

There's a lot more than Linux appliances to this deal...

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At first it may look like just another deal to put Linux onto a screenphone, but in reality this week's Red Hat-Ericsson alliance has far broader scope and implications. Ultimately it could turn out to have been one of the pivotal breakthroughs in the implemention of a Linux-based version of .NET.

Although the first product of the deal will be an Ericsson Cordless Screen Phone running Embedded Red Hat Linux, the points to note are that first, it's intended as an end-to-end alliance, and second that it puts the highest shipping Linux outfit into bed with a company with lots of bucks and expertise in networking, wireless, consumer markets and telecommunications in general. For Red Hat there's a massive boost in business credibility associated with this.

The two will be developing consumer products using Linux, Java, broadband and Bluetooth technology, but there's plenty extra beyond that. They'll be designing Internet services "specifically targeting operators (telecommunications, Internet and Application Service Providers) that are increasingly looking to offer consumers new, easy-to-use and innovative levels of service."

Now, Microsoft's .NET is not what you'd call original; it's more of a translation of developments that are already happening into Microsoftspeak, with all that entails - so you can't call the Red Hat-Ericsson plan a knock-off of .NET. But clearly it's intended to do at least some of the same things, and if Bill Gates is paying attention he's probably as angry over this one as he was about Symbian.

Symbian itself may be a little puzzled by one of its major shareholders going end-to-end with Linux rather than EPOC, but there's more than an element of horses for courses here. EPOC devices are client devices, so there's something else at the server end, and it could just as well be Linux. Which is precisely what it will be according to the Ericsson plan. As Bjorn Krylander, general manager of Ericsson Home Communications, said: "Red Hat delivers unique software and expertise in all the areas critical to launch this initiative: the embedded Linux software powering affordable and reliable devices for home communications, the Internet servers powering the back end infrastructure and the networking and communications that ties together thousands of loosely connected mobile devices."

That sounds a little Microsoftish too, doesn't it? Linux at client and server end, with services being seamlessly delivered to all sorts of different home appliances. Ericsson also has a programme called Vizion which will be part of the initiative, and which will "link many wireless and wired devices in an integrated home network." And here's another Krylander quote that may have some resonance for billg: It "is a natural extension of our vision of anywhere, anytime communication."

Matthew Szulik, Red Hat president and CEO, describes the initiative as enabling "a comprehensive range of post-PC products and services." Post PC? End-to-end Linux? New classes of packaged services for operators and ASPs? This is right up against .NET. ®

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