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IBM's Bob Sutor sees interest in open-source mounting

He expects the financial services and retail industries to embrace it more in 2006

By Eric Lai
January 24, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president of standards and open-source, sees 2006 as the year when a number of industries will move to embrace open-source software -- and he expects IBM to play a role in many of those efforts. Sutor, who spoke with Computerworld last week, also weighed in on the role of Linux and offered his thoughts on Massachusetts' OpenDocument plans. Excerpts from the interview follow:
What markets will embrace open-source this year? I think there will be a continuation in health care and education. Those industries have tremendous social relevance and also have significant amount of work to do. We will see a lot of government policy related to that.
We're also starting to see more open-source projects that are very specific to a particular industry. The Sakai project in education is a good example. It is basically an ERP system for universities. Instead of managing customers, it manages students and courses and allows information sharing between colleges and universities. IBM has been advising them.
I do think financial services will have a big year. With any technology, financial services gets in early. They're always looking for efficiencies and greater economies of scale. Retail is another area, as we see a lot of standardization work going on there. These are the hot areas we're looking at.
Speaking of retail, Windows still holds more than two-thirds of the installed base of point-of-sale (POS) terminals in stores, with your 4690 systems still holding a big slice. Linux hasn't made much progress despite its strengths for a thin client ¿ which is what a POS terminal is. On the Linux server side, we've done some interesting things in stores. There's an RFID project with German retailer Metro AG and SAP AG. Linux servers monitor what's happening on the shelves, like when items are taken off and brought to the register. While I certainly believe we'll see more Linux infiltration in terms of the standard things people are doing now, I think as retailers get more creative and start building these "stores of the future," they are going to look for Linux. The price is right, the ability to code on them is right.
The world is going to be hybrid for a long time. People need to view it as an optimization problem: What is the right mix of Linux, other open-source and proprietary [software] in terms of the economics, my staff, my partners? Anyway, I wouldn't ask, ¿How do we get more Linux in retail?' It's how do we get it thoroughly open-source and standards-based



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