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Linward, March!

Open-source software gains momentum with Intel support for Linux in Asia, sharp growth for the Firefox browser, and Novell's profitable move to Linux.
Are the days of Wintel Inside waning? For many years, the double-punch combo of the Windows operating system and Intel microprocessors -- and their virtual stranglehold on desktop systems -- was almost invincible. Slowly but surely, however, Intel has started to shift away from an exclusive bent toward Microsoft, culminating in an announcement that the microchip giant would lend support for Linux software installations in the battleground Asian market.

To meet the booming Linux market in Asia, Intel is offering a Quick Start Kit for Linux, with support for desktop software from Red Hat, Novell, Red Flag, and eventually, China Standard Software Co.

And it's not only Microsoft that is losing out from Intel's embrace of Linux. IDC predicts that Intel's high-end Itanium 2 processor will help ERP-on-Linux installations grow 44 percent by 2008, with ERP-on-Unix taking the biggest hit.

Meanwhile, Linspire is jumping onto a double-decker open-source bandwagon, by combining the OpenOffice.org suite with the Firefox browser to offer a low-cost software package for Windows and Mac. The move is perfectly timed, as Firefox 1.0 has caught fire with 5.6 million downloads in its first two weeks of existence; plus, the Mozilla browser has taken five points of market share from Internet Explorer according to research by OneStat.com.

But perhaps the most eye-popping gain for Linux software was the news that legacy networking firm Novell had successfully transformed itself into a born-again Linux outfit with its purchase of SuSE last year -- and the recent news that the company would be profitable for 2004. Next up: A Novell Linux offering for the SMB market. Ho, ho, ho.