LINUXWORLD: Fiorina reiterates HP's Linux devotion

This year will be the breakout period for enterprise Linux deployments, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Carly Fiorina said in her opening keynote address at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo.

Fiorina devoted her speech to outlining HP's breadth of Linux-supporting software, hardware and services, and to screening prerecorded customer testimonials about the advantages of HP's Linux products. She also touched on HP's planned merger with Compaq, defending the merger's advantages and arguing that it will create a powerful Linux advocate.

"One of the prime innovations, one of the prime motivations, of our merger with Compaq is our deeply shared belief in standards-based platforms and technologies," Fiorina said. "This is a combination that's good for Linux. What I have been telling customers is that as this merger goes forward, our strategic commitment at the operating system level is to Windows, Unix and Linux."

Compaq and HP are both committed to driving adoption of Linux on Intel's forthcoming Itanium processor, Fiorina said. Together, the two companies will have an "unbeatable" research and development team, and will be able to facilitate progress toward industry-wide standards and help Linux mature as an enterprise platform, she said.

Acknowledging that there has been "spirited debate" about the merger, Fiorina maintained that combining with Compaq will strengthen the company's PC, imaging and services business, and said that HP's history is filled with examples of the company accomplishing what critics said was impossible.

Fiorina drew a laugh from the audience with a comment about her firsthand knowledge of how much the IT industry "loves a good dogfight." One of its favorite fights is against Microsoft, she said, but the reality is that Microsoft products are a mainstay of many corporations on their desktops, and will remain a fixture. Linux is finding its way into enterprises though niche applications, she said.

"Right now, we're taking a pragmatic approach. The question for us is not, 'Will Linux dominate the world?' The question for us is, 'What part of the world will Linux dominate?'" she said.

Fiorina highlighted a number of projects HP customers have embarked upon using Linux, and summarized several announcements the company is making at the conference.

Multimedia entertainment firm DreamWorks SKG signed a three-year, multimillion dollar alliance naming HP its sole preferred technology provider, HP said Wednesday. HP will supply workstations, servers, printers, networking technologies and Linux hardware, software and services to DreamWorks. As part of the exchange, HP will receive some product and brand marketing rights.

The alliance is particularly aimed at support DreamWorks' animation projects, Fiorina said. The partnership sprung from the companies' work together on DreamWorks' hit "Shrek," which Fiorina termed the first major movie to make widespread use of Linux in its development. DreamWorks' next animated movie -- "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," scheduled for release in the United States in May -- was created on some 200 HP Linux-based workstations and servers.

Several audience members interviewed after the keynote said that while Fiorina came off as a good speaker, the keynote was too long and too HP-centric.

"It was a very nice HP infomercial," said Steven Galgano, a software engineer with ITT Industries Inc.'s aerospace/communications division.

Galgano's colleague said he came to the keynote partially because he was curious about whether Fiorina would comment on the Compaq merger. "I'm not quite sure how I feel about the merger. I don't think it will affect me much," said Larry Doyle, a senior scientist at ITT working on embedded Linux applications for wireless navigation devices.

The one thing that caught his interest during the keynote was Fiorina's strong statements on HP's belief in Linux.

"It was good to hear that they support Linux throughout the corporation," Doyle said. "IBM (Corp.) clearly has a major corporate commitment to Linux. I wasn't sure whether HP had that same kind of commitment, but when the CEO steps up and makes comments like that, that shows there's a corporate commitment."

LinuxWorld, in New York, continues through Friday. Details on the show are available at http://www.linuxworldexpo.com/.

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