COMPUTERWORLD EXPO: Linux steals the show

More than 5000 people are expected to have passed through Computerworld Expo by the time the doors close at the Expo Centre in Greenlane, Auckland, at 4pm today.

More than 5000 people are expected to have passed through Computerworld Expo by the time the doors close at the Expo Centre in Greenlane, Auckland, at 4pm today.

Among quirky products on display by the 80 exhibitors, more than a third of which are at the show for the first time, are IBM's prototype Linux Watch and business cards on a CD.

Microsoft's preview of Office XP has been well attended, with spokesman Tony Ward highlighting the flexible and collaborative nature of the application suite. "I can now use Word as the place where I handle my email, and that makes even my professional life much easier," he says.

While some exhibitors note that the absence this year of some key names in IT, notably Apple - once again - as well as Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Telecom, may have slightly lessened the attraction of the Computerworld Expo to consumers, other exhibitors have highlighted the quality business connections they have made.

Project manager from one-year-old broadband media company Webvideo, Steve Roigard, says that with a day of the Expo still ahead, his company has received an overwhelming number of client leads. "It's really exceeded our expectations," he says.

The director of PC maker Samcor Computers, Graham Dunn, says his firm has made strong connections with a handful of genuinely interested clients. "We've been able to talk to people who really have something to say," he says. "Not just deal with thousands of people who want to pick up brochures."

Perhaps the real hit of the show has been the variety and quality of Linux-based products and services.

One popular exhibitor has been Linux system integrator Zombie New Zealand, a local business partner of IT giant Compaq.

Co-director Bryce Coad says the attraction for businesses of the free OS is not just the price tag, but the dedication and knowledge of support staff and the power of the utilities users can run with it.

Zombie develops, installs and supports its own Linux-based business software and operates a growing Linux-based ISP.

"Linux presents a genuine alternative," says Coad. "Our company doesn't charge people to use another company's product. Our charging is based on genuine service integration," says Coad.

The fact that Linux is open-source also means that it requires a new business model, he says. "These days it's based on co-operation, not competition."

But Coad reveals a tough edge when you ask him why he names his firm Zombie. "Because just like Linux, we're hard to kill," he says.

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