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Linux Developers Sticking with PowerPC

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 10, 2005 5:00 AM PT

Combining Linux with PowerPC-based hardware is an attractive combination in some developers' minds -- one that seems unshaken by Apple's announcement this week that it will migrate its "iron" to Intel processors.

Linux Developers Sticking with PowerPC

In fact, Linux developers appear to prefer not to change over to Intel and will continue developing for IBM's PowerPC processor.

Among the staunch allies of the PowerPC processor -- the chip spurned by Apple this week -- is Novell, of Provo, Utah, maker of SuSE Linux.

Yellow Dog

"Novell remains committed to the Power platform and sees it as an important platform for Linux," Novell spokesperson Rod Anderson told MacNewsWorld.

Terra Soft Solutions, of Loveland, Colo., maker of Yellow Dog Linux, which runs on PowerPC-based Apple computers, dug in its heels when Steve Jobs rocked the Macintosh world with his announcement Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

"We remain a Linux development company with 100 percent focus on the Power Architecture (IBM, Freescale)," Terra Soft CEO Kai Staats wrote in an e-mail to MacNewsWorld. "We will not transition to support an x86/ia64 architecture."

Staats said his company remains on good terms with Apple, even though it isn't buying into the processor move.

World of Greater Power Diversity

"[Apple's] announcement does not immediately affect our ability to sell nor support Apple PowerPC hardware," Staats said. "Nor does it affect our ability to support non-Apple Power Architecture offerings."

"Things are already in motion to enable a world of greater Power Architecture diversity," he declared.

Staats said that Apple's Intel migration will only pump up the popularity of Y-HPC, Terra Soft's flavor of Linux for 64-bit computers. "Based upon feeback to today's [Monday's] news, we expect Y-HPC to gain an even greater user base with existing Apple Xserve users," he wrote. "Y-HPC offers a Linux OS to help bridge x86/ia64 and PowerPC clusters, reducing effort in code migration and administration."

Macintosh Overkill

Meanwhile, some Macintosh enthusiasts with a love for Linux were unfazed by Apple's migration strategy.

"I'll keep buying Macs," Marius Schamschula, an assistant professor of optics at Alabama A&M University in Normal, Ala., told MacNewsWorld via e-mail. "I still have a number of 68k systems that work, I have a number of PowerPC machines at home and at work, and I'll have Intel based Macs after the bugs are worked out (second or third revision)."

Schamschula, a member of the Huntsville Macintosh Users Group and MkLinux Web development team, added: "Don't get me wrong: I still use Linux -- on Intel, but only for specialized scientific work ... but I have absolutely no need to waste a perfectly good (BSD UNIX) Mac when a commodity PC will do for Linux."

No Impact from Migration to Intel

Linux on PowerPC Macs is primarily used the way the operating sytem is used on the Intel platform, Dan Kusnetzky, vice president for system software research at IDC in Framingham, Mass., explained.

"It's being used largely by developers, researchers, scientists, academicians and students, who, for one reason or another, might like the Apple hardware, but want the software that's available from the open-source community," he told MacNewsWorld.

While in the Macintosh world, Apple's migration might have caused a big splash, it will barely produce a ripple in the Linux sphere. "It will probably have little or no impact on the market for Linux," Kusnetzky declared.

Linux Desktop Safe

Neither will the migration disturb the equilibrium in the desktop market, he added.

He explained that Linux has about 2.6 percent of the desktop market; Apple, 2.7 percent. "Both of them are important to individual segments of the market, but do not have a share of the market when compared to Windows," he said.

"The fact that Apple is switching hardware platforms will have very little impact on Linux's desktop share," he added.

Open Source Options Still Open

Apple's defection from the PowerPC ranks doesn't necessarily mean that it will lose its open-source following, the IDC analyst maintained.

"If what Apple provides as a hardware platform is interesting to the open-source community, it would not surprise me very much that a group of people will find a way to port Linux to that hardware in short order," Kusnetzky observed.

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