Slowly but surely Linux - the open source Unix-style operating system - is gaining credibility in business computing. The impetus is no longer coming from back-bedroom code warriors but from a bevy of IT supply giants.
IBM now bundles Linux with everything from Thinkpads and thin clients to its Tivoli software. Unix-on-Intel vendor SCO last month threw in the towel and linked up with Linux supplier Caldera. Meanwhile Sun, Compaq, HP and IBM are ganging up to push Linux onto the desktop. And, Microsoft-ally Dell admits it has saved "millions" by using Linux in-house.
True, Linux remains unproven when it comes to high-value enterprise computing. And some of the claims of the Linux jihad - for example its immunity to viruses - are overstated. But the tide is turning away from Microsoft in the pervasive, low-end, Web-enabled computing.
Open source software - together with the open standards demanded by Internet-based computing - can shift the balance between IT suppliers and users. It can force suppliers to seek profits in the real added-value areas of services and solutions rather than in a proprietory monopoly over everyday desktop tools. The bottom line is that it can slash costs.
Linux is now supported by a killer combination.
It is backed by an alliance of big suppliers and it has crucial "mindspace" among the IT managers of the future.
Few IT departments will be rushing out to re-equip with Linux tomorrow. But those that leave themselves without an evaluation plan could be making an expensive mistake.