Appreciating Tom Yager

Nobody gets a bigger kick out of Tom Yager's essays than I do. Last week's issue of InfoWorld featured a pair of gems.

Winning the OS game

IBM's seemingly tentative approach toward Linux adds up to keen business sense. Everyone agrees that AIX is duller than dishwater. Linux has brought a much-needed sense of invention and play to IBM's dreary hallways. But early fears that IBM would co-opt Linux are unfounded; most Linux for IBM platforms is made by other vendors such as SuSE. Portrayals of IBM as a half-hearted participant in the open-source community ring hollow. IBM's commitment to Linux is real and enthusiastic, but its strategy is tempered with sound reason.

If IBM is wading into open source, Apple's cannonballing right into the deep end. OS X Server, or Darwin for non-Mac users, is a brilliant open-source OS. Apple holds a few parts of OS X proprietary, most notably its Cocoa graphical application framework. But the bulk of OS X is true open source, including Apple innovations Rendezvous and Open Directory.

Apple's traditional status as a niche player allowed it to sneak OS X in as though it were the next humdrum version of the desktop Mac OS. Apple's engineers speak in subdued tones about OS X, but they're not fooling us. These seemingly humble geeks are just keeping competitors calm while they sharpen their teeth.

Low-end servers live!

Of course Xeon isn't the only game in town. Intel's own Itanium 2 will finally get a kick in 2003. We saw several systems at Comdex, including a beast from NEC with 32 processors. AMD demonstrated four-way Opteron (aka Hammer) systems at Comdex, and the company could unleash some surprises of its own during the first half of 2003. AMD realizes it can't string customers along on Hammer any longer. It's put up or shut up time, and we think AMD is ready to put up.

Setting aside what might happen next year, we already know there is a new player in the mix: Apple. The Power PC, G4-based Mac line is more than a mere fashion statement. It rips the price floor out from under established Unix nameplates. That's what they get for making fun of NeXT.

This is great writing: smooth on the surface, but transparently revealing depth, and polished with humor. It's a pleasure to be (again) part of a team that includes Tom.

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