Intel chairman Andy Grovemade a surprise appearance at the LinuxWorld Conference and Exposition, announcing that the kernel of a version of Linux for Intel's forthcoming IA-64 architecture will be released to the open-source community early next year.
Grove said that Linux is up and running on an IA-64 simulator in Intel's labs, along with seven other operating systems.
He helped demonstrate Linux running on the IA-64 architecture hosting Apache, a publicly available server program used for many Web sites.
Walking out on stage during the keynote address by Sean Maloney, an Intel senior vice president, Grove said that both Linux and Intel's new architecture will drive e-commerce on the Internet. "We are seeing major changes in the business environment, changes that are moving toward electronic transactions," Grove said.
Grove said Intel will provide servers based on Merced, Intel's first IA-64 processor due out next year, to key Linux companies for Internet-based software development by the open-source community.
Separately, Intel announced that Merced servers can be accessed via Intel's developer Web site at http://developer.intel.com to support commercial development of applications and operating systems, including Linux.
One attendee, unimpressed by the demonstration of Linux running on an IA-64 simulator, said the Intel executives' pronouncements here amounted to little more than a marketing opportunity.
"My first thought was that this is an effort to buy the Linux community," said Ulrich Dziergwa, an official with Ferrari Electronic AG in Teltow, Germany, which designs and builds facsimile servers.
"I think another part of it is sending a signal to Microsoft that there is something else out there in the world -- that Microsoft is no longer at the center of everything," Dziergwa said. Grove's attendance here sends a message to Microsoft that Intel has other operating system vendors with which to partner, he added.
Dziergwa noted that Linux already runs on a 64-bit processor -- Digital Equipment Corp.'s Alpha chip, now owned by Compaq Computer Corp. Business customers looking for a powerful hardware platform on which to run Linux applications may well pressure Compaq into stepping up its efforts in developing Alpha for Linux, he said.
"The risk is much lower to write software for something that is already running," Dziergwa said, noting that Merced is not expected to ship until 2000.
Conference information is at http://www.linuxworldexpo.com/.
(Additional reporting by James Niccolai.)