February 12, 2001

Weekly news wrapup: Linux layoffs and confusion about them

Author: JT Smith

- by Grant Gross -

Following a week of big announcements at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, the Linux community sank back to earth this week with news of layoffs at two major Linux distributors, SuSE and Turbolinux.

The news coming out of popular German distro SuSE was especially curious this week. At the same time that the company's CTO was touting the company's plan to become a "worldwide market leader," the company decided to lay off three-quarters of its U.S. staff.

The only problem was that someone apparently forgot to tell the SuSE press relations people, and a company spokesman first denied the reports as "totally rubbish."

The plot took another weird twist last in the week, when the president of SuSE's U.S. division protested that he was misquoted in a LinuxGram story, which paraphrased him as saying "Linux as a business isn't working out" and it's been a "victim of hype and irrational expectations." (Quotes are LinuxGram's, not the SuSE dude's.) SuSE ended its roller coaster week by saying the now-confirmed layoffs wouldn't affect its commitment to the U.S. market.

Acquisition issues

Turbolinux's layoffs were a bit less dramatic, unless you were one of the people getting the pink slips. On Friday, the company began laying off about a third of its staff of 120, as part of restructuring during its acquisition of LinuxCare. In addition, LinuxCare laid off about 10 percent of its staff, about 15 people.

On the flip side, Linux distro Caldera sweetened the pot in its acquisition of Santa Cruz Operation's Unix products, agreeing to pay $31 million for an expanded group of products.

Takes one to know one

So maybe this isn't news anymore. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted as calling Linux "crummy" in an article this week. Still, he admitted Linux has become a competitor in some market niches. "In some markets, crummy has been OK," he tells Fast Company magazine. Let's admit this: Ballmer has to be the world's greatest expert on crummy software. Meanwhile, Microsoft faced a mutiny in its Whistler beta newsgroups because of its Product Activation technology, with testers threatening to jump ship to Linux.

For those of you who weren't impressed with Netscape 6.0, the 6.01 version is out, complete with "enhanced stability," according to one report.

If you're still hungering for LinuxWorld news, IDG News Service put together a "best of" article. A ZDNet column followed up the umpteen announcements from big companies by looking for evidence of Linux in big enterprises. The columnist didn't find much.

New in NewsForge this week

Columnist Julie Bresnick talks with Linux kernel hacker Geert Uytterhoeven about his start in Open Source.

News editor Tina Gasperson finds that many Linux users are holding off on running the 2.4 kernel, at least for the moment.

Columnist Jack Bryar explores where the Linux revolution may next hit, the Third World.

NewsForge editors read and respond to comments posted on our discussion page.

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