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The Big Linux Debate Threatened legal action from SCO has failed to slow the take-up of Linux, according to a panel of experts at the Linux Users and Developers Conference.

The Big Linux Debate on the last day of the conference in London, Olympia brought together eight open source evangelists and one man from Microsoft.

The sacrificial lamb in the lion's den was Brad Tipp, systems engineer from Microsoft. He sought shelter next to big Adam Jollans from IBM. The nine panel members were sqeezed along a long table like the Last Supper. Space was so tight that even the chairman didn't get a chair.

Answering a question on the impact of the SCO case, Jollans, Linux marketing strategy manager at Big Blue, said the company was continuing to see increasing momentum behind Linux take up. Graham Taylor, director of OpenForum Europe agreed with him: "It is an irritant we could do without but it is not impacting business and is not slowing take up."

Jeremy Allison, from the Samba team at HP, said: "In a way it is a sign of the success of the Linux community - no-one sues unless they think there's money there."

Microsoft's Tipp got the bigest laugh of the session: "It's just nice to see a court case that Microsoft isn't involved in - they should spread them around a bit more." He added that SCO was not the end-game; and more cases were likely.

The panel was also asked if Linux provides real competition to Microsoft for desktop PC. Most agreed that it doesn't yet for home users, but might do soon. One member said 2003 was the year of Linux and 2004 would be the year of Linux on desktops.

Matt Asay, of Novell, said: "Today it's very good - in three year's time it will be similar in number terms to servers, and give it a year or two and there will be frantic competition."

Two panel members also pointed out that running a pilot open source project will radically improve your negotiating position when renewing proprietary software licenses.

The panel was also asked what impact open source methodology has on software development. JAllison said: "Most proprietary software is crap because people can get away with it - no-one is going to see the code. But my name is on Samba so we make sure we ship when it's ready and not before."

Tony Kenny is IT manager at Beaumont Hospital Dublin, where he has overseen a major shift, with major savings, to open source software. He said it had a big impact on his IT department when they realised applications they had developed would be taken up by other hospitals. He said: "Giving out applications meant my IT department realised other people would see their mistakes - that changed things." ®

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