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America Online

AOL Considers Linux? 72

News.com is running a story about AOL Considering Linux, although its fairly hazy on the details. Talks about Netscape turned AOLs investment in Red Hat, Linux in Consumer devices (seems to say its a bad idea, despite the mention of the empeg) and other assorted rumors with little solid claims from anyone beyond 'no comments'.
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AOL Considers Linux?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    This sounds interesting, but of course we haven't seen any of AOL's new efforts much yet, but of course it would really help linux a lot if it had it's own AOL client...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I love is this quote:

    "Linux is simply too muscular for that space, and even without the Windows licensing fee, a hardware company would still have to pay the relatively high prices for Intel chips", Jupiter's Card said.

    Hello? Anyone heard of AMD or Cyrix?
    What we need is a ninety-eight pound OS that runs on hydrogen gas. Oh yeah, and Windows Everywhere.
  • It would mean one less reason for my wife to boot my machine into MacOS.
    --
  • Well, MS-DOS is a Microsoft OS that is less demanding than Linux.

    Of course, you'd probably want to use DR-DOS [drdos.com] since the source code to it is available for you to tweak.
  • The average AOL user can hardly operate windows 95, and they expect them to run linux?

    The same can be said of the average earthlink user, the average MSN user, the average mindspring user, the average MCI user, the average SprintNet user, and just about any other large national ISP. If we rule out everybody, who exactly is it that is going to be running Linux? Or are you planning on achieving "world domination" as a server OS?
  • The memory management, networking, scheduling and loads of other stuff would still be that which we love.

    As for it being single-user... maybe so. It's being an AOL terminal, not a *nix box. That's fine. Do we bemoan the lack of multiuser capabilities in a linux-based mpeg player? Why do so here?
  • Posted by Mike@ABC:

    AOL's investment in Red Hat is nothing more than an anti-Microsoft stake. If Linux is successful in challenging Microsoft on the consumer/newbie desktop, then AOL can use its muscle to get a quick Linux-AOL package together. But I'm pretty sure that won't happen soon.

    As for the embedded markets, AOL definitely wants to get out there, but I think they've committed to Java, at least for the first few products. If someone else manages a solid embedded Linux product, then AOL will jump on the bandwagon. But all of their resources and people are too focused on the Sun-Java thing at the moment.

    But hey, I could be completely wrong.

  • Posted by synus:

    It's a great announcement and even though I don't use aol, it'll allow those users on aol to experience linux. However, I don't think many people on AOL have even heard of linux, let alone will harness it. I think the upgrade of linux will be more benefitial to AOL itself rather then it's users.
  • Posted by My_Favorite_Anonymous_Coward:

    AOL might spread itself to thin, trying to jump on too many bandwagons at the same time. After they successfully managed to appear on almost every M$ desktop and focussing on being a consumer service organization (in contrast to being just an ISP), They were expanding in a new direction, the corporate market place (Sun/Netscape deal, AOL Anywhere campaign). Picking up Linux, introduces yet another direction - still not "professional" enough for many coorporations, and to complicated for the bulk of typical AOL end users.

    Why should they try to be "professional" enough? I don't understand, is NBC professional enough? Is WB, UPN professional enough? Does NBC make any professional product per sa? (like a documentary division, or a indy film division, or a something like Industrial Light and Magic?) Does Time, newsweek professional enough. Why? why why why? As far as they can stuff a Gecko rendering engine and a word processor in a sub sub X86, its going to satisfy majority's need.

    Some people just can accept the fact that the current PII's already overkilled.
    CY
  • Posted by My_Favorite_Anonymous_Coward:

    You put a tocken in it, the AOL Anywhere machine will let you surf on line for 3 minute. Doesn't anybody think this is a great idea for new phoneboot/netboot in air port and gradually most of the public area?

    Of course, it wouldn't be that cheap initially. Provide that you can plug smart card in it for anonymous online purchase and a plampilot connection to download email.

    No?
    CY
  • ...just like Netscape's pure-java browser. Another
    fine vaporous concept to occupy the time of a
    select group of middle managers.

    AOL is not going to seriously consider bucking
    an operating system that has 90% of the desktop
    market by the short and curlys.

  • To whom it may concern:

    On http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,35463,00.html?st .ne.fd.gif.d, Mr. Card is quoted as saying:

    "Linux is simply too muscular for that space, and even without the Windows licensing fee, a hardware company would still have to pay the relatively high prices for Intel chips."

    Mr. Card really shouldn't be allowed to talk to the press, because he just made himself and your company look like complete idiots.

    Linux runs very well on many non-Intel chips. For one thing, it runs on chips from AMD, which are much cheaper than Intel's chips. Second, since Linux is so fast, it can run better on low-end chips than other operating systems (like Windows) on higher-end chips. Third, Linux has been ported to other architectures, such as StrongARM and PowerPC.

    I suppose the real blunder was made by the author of the article, Stephen Shankland, who should have known better than to quote someone completely unqualified to comment on the subject. It would have been smart if Mr. Shankland had actually verified the statements of the people he was interviewing. Nothing makes a journalist look more stupid than when he quotes someone who is completely wrong without pointing out the error.

    --
    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address

  • Just think, AOL could tailor a distribution around the AOL client, make it idiot proof, and plasted the AOL logo all over the screen.

    Who needs windows? Just use AOL's MyDesktop(tm) with everything integerated.

    Don't think it's not going to happen one of these days.
  • I don't know which server you're using for TrueType, but I can get 'em in any size I want in X, including within my browser using xfstt.
  • by datazone ( 5048 )
    Thats what my grandmother would have said (may she rest in peace.)
    AOL can't even (or don't care to) make version 4.0 of its software run correctly on NT 4.0, and its so god damn similar to windows 9x that it is not even funny. And to think that they would make a linux version?!? I guess not only programmers use drugs...

    Anywho, if for some unknown reason they make a version of of their software that can run on linux, bet your last dollar that it is only ever going to run on a specific distro or embeded client. Cause they do not like to fix problems in their software. They have the worst response to software bugs/problems that i have ever seen in the computer industry. There general response is "its not our problem, contact microsoft/dealer" or "install the 16-bit version".
  • Slightly more complex than this - Digital and ARM developed the StrongARM as a joint venture, which meant they both had quite a stake in it (don't ask me for figures ;()

    Intel bought the semiconductor arm of Digital (including the Alpha and StrongARM)... "do the math", as our American cousins tend to say ;-)

  • A simple search for "linux" on news.com yields 333 matches. Wow.
  • I'm not sure about pricing (which was the original concern) but (Stong)ARM is now Intel. Power reqirements would make any other Intel chip unsuitable, though maybe not for the toaster, if you upgrade your breakers a bit. ;-)

    -Steve
  • Until I installed some AOL content provider tools on my copy of AOL that WINE chokes on, I'd been running AOL 4.0 for Win95 under WINE for a couple of months.

    Apart from modem dialing, font-encoding issues and its lack of a web browser (since it can't use IE), the core AOL client stuff is pretty much at beta quality, at least as far as x86 Unixes goes. Chat, IM, Rainman/VPD forms, and TCP/IP connectivity all work fine.

    So between the development momentum WINE has and a motivation to build the core browser engine of Mozilla to release, AOL would have a pretty easy time making a solid AOL 4.0 client for x86 Linux.

    I suspect AOL's next direction is going to be toward DHTML and a phase-out of their proprietary content format and rendering technologies. During the transition, for an AOL 5.0 product phase, they could move the Rainman/VPD support to Java, basically turning thr AOL client into "Mozilla + pluggable chat (sound familiar?) + a JVM (from partner Sun)".

    Such a creature could run in whole or in parts, using the same codebase everywhere, on anything from a PDA to a screenphone to a PC.

    You'll see.
  • Analysts have almost the same job as reporters, except they sell their findings to companies rather than print them for the world.

    When I started work, the analyst was the person who analysed the requirements, proposed solutions and wrote the specification for the programmers to implement. Obviously the meaning has changed :-)

  • by Splat ( 9175 ) on Wednesday April 21, 1999 @04:24PM (#1922573)
    This could really change the whole way people look at computers in their lives. "Hiding Linux from the user" is not as hard as this article makes it sound. Infact, I don't see what is hard about it all. Computer's in themselves "hide" things from users. Your average computer user doesn't know how the CPU works, what's on a motherboard, nor really cares. The average population just wants practicallity in a device. Writing a slick GUI on top of Linux does not sound real complicated at all.

    I don't even see why Linux is "not an OS for consumer devices" either. Why not? Is there something glaringly obvious I should be aware of? Hmm let's see here - portability, reliability, performance, low cost. Stripped down to it's core functional enviornment it makes the IDEAL consumer device OS.

    AOL could basically make "AOL Appliances". With the current pricing of electronic components, I'm sure you could package a cute little computer capable of running the GUI I mentioned above on bare-bones hardware. Linux has the potential to be a breakthrough in the way we use machines. Companies need to "think outside the box".
  • Well, look at MS, IBM, Dell.... Every IT company insanely overextends itself as quickly as possible, particularly any company involved in the internet. Consumers and client corporations are too stupid to wait for technologies to mature, so, in the words of an InfoWorld columnist, "being the first in any IT specialty will virtually guarantee you a 50% market share for the next three years." Should I take my 2,000-subscriber ISP, borrow $5 billion, hire a bunch of software and hardware engineers, and try to become the next DEC? Sure, why not?

    Overextension generally leads to poor software, little-to-no customer service, and enormous profits. Companies that stay small and create great software (Symantec and Corel, for example) create wonderful products and get bulldozed.

  • What OS were the columnists considering for a set-top box that would have fewer requirements than Linux? They rightly mention that Java has high memory & processor requirements. (Sun's proverbial "toaster" applications won't run Java until the average toaster has a P100 and 8 megs.) But surely no journalist would think that Linux is more demanding than, say, any embedded OS Microsoft could come up with?
  • Great! Now my dad can run Linux :)
    NaTaS
    http://natas.kfa.cx/~civ --My Civ: CTP webpage! Check it out!
  • "Analysts" are often quoted in computer articles... but just who are these people? Do they actually have any clue of what they're talking about? I wonder, because all they ever do is make unqualified statements about things (well, this is the way they are quoted at least). For example, from this article: Is a cheap AOL-Linux device in the cards? "It's a really dumb idea," and Though Linux is reliable, "I'm not convinced Linux is the appropriate operating system to run in a consumer device," said Patricia Seybold Group analyst Anne Thomas, echoing comments from other analysts. In consumer devices, the operating systems are hidden from the users, but "it's kind of hard to completely hide Linux," she said.. Now, it seems to me that linux runs on a variety of hardware, and could easily be hidden... would that be true? Whenever analysts become involved in an article, I have no idea what I should believe.
    -------
  • Hey folks,

    Of course, I can't reveal anything that I know, but let me make one thing perfectly clear. Netscape developers who are doing AOL projects run Linux. I'm no where near the HQ, and just a lowly field Systems Engineer, trying to make a buck. It's the developers who have helped us get Linux up and running on our corporate laptops.. and those developers are the ones that are working on AOL projects. Don't underestimate AOL.

    I really liked "America On Linux", that I saw in this thread!
  • Netscape invested in RedHat, and then was bought by AOL, who got the investment.

    But AOL would lend an air of legitimacy to Linux just because there user base is stupid. If the company that caters to the newbie is accepting Linux, that means everyone above the new people are looking at Linux. I would liken it too a cheap PC provider adding something totally new to their PCs. Well, every other company would have to because they don't want the cheapest one having an advantage over them. Instead of a trickling down effect of a new feature, it would come from the bottom up.

    I hope that makes sense.
  • Hello, ever heard of the strongARM? That's what the empeg runs on... and, IIRC, that's what Corel's Netwinder uses for a CPU as well. I've even seen (and played with) linux running on my pilot. Statements like this, (about the Intel chip requirement) just show ignorance and apathy.
  • I had this problem too... it works if you just type in the number rather than relying on a drop-down box. Sometimes.

    "Software is like sex- the best is for free"
  • that it seems that linux is starting to become equated with "cheap solutions"? Now, all of us users know how it's more stable, etc., but, I'm seeing more and more companies jump onto it because it's "free". I wonder.............
  • "it's kind of hard to completely hide Linux,"

    -- Colbat Cube --



    Jim
  • I wonder if this whole thing has anything to do with that email that i sent to steve case last week, suggesting exacly this?

    Anyway, where do these freeking analysts get their information. "Linux is simply too muscular for that space, and even without the Windows licensing fee, a hardware company would still have to pay the relatively high prices for Intel chips, Jupiter's Card said."

    Unlike some operating systems (Win3.1/9x), Linux actually runs on more than one type of processor. I believe The Netwinder uses a StrongARM, LinuxPPC runs on PowerPC, there is a port of Linux to the Palm Pilot, and other non-INTEL platforms, so, although most of the larger distributions, include an intel version, that isn't the only processor supported.
  • They will probably use a modified linux kernel for a non-intel platform. The modifications would include, a completely graphical interface (no CLI) it would only run in single-user mode, and unneccesary featues would be removed. The code will hardly resemble the OS we've come to know and love at all. Too bad.
  • Depending on you point of view, David Card has too much or not enough muscle between his ears. I just ain't shure.



    "That's a really dumb idea" -David Card
  • Is it just me, or does someone else think this guy should find a different line of work..

    1. "That is a really dumb idea"
    - Great.. thanks for telling me. Try something like "Given factor A and factor B it does not appear to be in AOLs best interest to implement this plan" and NOT "Oh.. that's a stupid idea."

    2. The whole intel chip thing.
    - Excuse me.. doesn't Linux run on ARM's and PPCs and Alphas and m68ks and a bunch of other thins??

    Methinks this guy is very good at spreading FUD (and I hate to mudsling him, but Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt all seem to be prevelant in his comments).
  • "Retooling AOL services to make them work on devices without the broad capabilities of a desktop computer wouldn't be technically difficult"

    How "technically difficult" is it to generate a busy signal? :)

    /* If that's a lawyer on the phone, I'm not here. */
  • Developers of Visual Cafe. Oh yeah, great products...
  • If you ignore the GUI, it is. Java's a damn good middleware language. And since 1.2 its got a lot faster, and a lot less resource hungry.
  • ..."and even without the Windows licensing fee, a hardware company would still have to pay the relatively high prices for Intel chips, Jupiter's Card said."

    What?! They previously link the Empeg [empeg.com] for a Linux based computer that runs on StrongARM chips and now it (Linux) only runs on Intel chips?!

    Come on people!

    Not only that, but the kernel is now running on the Motorolla Dragonball processor (used in the Palm Pilot lineup).

    People need to start checking their facts!

  • What makes Linux seem hard is the effort required
    to install and configure all the software and
    device drives. If AOL provides a black box with
    everything preinstalled and configured, the only
    thing they have to show the user is Netscape.

    That interface on Linux has exactly the same look
    and feel as the Netscape interface on any other
    operating system.
  • Here's how it works with analysts like Card: they get paid partly according to how many times their names (and their company's) appear in news stories.
    So it's more profitable for someone like Card to say something brash like "It's a really dumb idea," a very quotable comment, than to really consider the question.
    From the writer's point of view: Shankland needs a source, in a hurry, with a title suggesting industry knowledge. Jupiter and its ilk (Forrester, Gartner, IDG, Meta, etc.) are supposed to be specialists in tech. From experience, I can say they're better informed and more accessible than the Wall Street equity analysts.

    Card should know better, and maybe Shankland could have dug a little more under Card's hasty assertion, but that's how the press/analyst machine works.
  • AOL might spread itself to thin, trying to jump on too many bandwagons at the same time. After they successfully managed to appear on almost every M$ desktop and focussing on being a consumer service organization (in contrast to being just an ISP), They were expanding in a new direction, the corporate market place (Sun/Netscape deal, AOL Anywhere campaign). Picking up Linux, introduces yet another direction - still not "professional" enough for many coorporations, and to complicated for the bulk of typical AOL end users.

    But then again, the whole thing is very vague, and honestly, bringing the latest buzz words in the news always impresses shareholders.

  • Analysts have almost the same job as reporters, except they sell their findings to companies rather than print them for the world. So if you're Intel, say, and you want to find out how big cable-modem sales will be in the future, you buy a cable-modem report from some analyst.

    Or, if you're a Wall Street investment firm, you hire someone to watch an industry segment for you -- these people also count as analysts.

    Analysts come in good and bad flavors, like anyone else, so you have to put their words in context, like anyone else. Usually they know their stuff, because a lot of them come from the industry. But they're less successful talking about things they're unfamiliar with. In the case of guys like Card, they just might not know much about Linux yet, so they make guesses based on what they've heard, usually kicking around lots of buzzwords in the process.

    The best ones, when confronted with unfamiliar areas, will tell the reporter "I don't know - call someone else."

    So yeah, the analysts don't sound too sharp in this article, but don't discount them as a group. They're often quite knowledgeable, and they sometimes have advance/inside info from the companies they cover.

    - cm
  • and nowadays analysts are people that
    inform managers and stock brokers
    about what they should do.

    Can you ever afford not to check any well
    informed source before acting in your role?

    Of course, if your source of opinion was
    bad then you have made a step in the false direction.

  • AOLserver (the freely available web server) has been available on Linux for a couple of years now.
  • I wonder if these smaller OSs would be more appropriate for consumer devices.

    I am not sure if PicoBSD is operational at this point. Is there a linux parallel?
  • Maybe it's just me, but the thought of AOL and a competent operating system just seem like mutually exclusive concepts to me.
  • What would such a deal look like? I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of Linux falling into AOL's sphere, after ther AOL-Netscape-Sun deal, which may even prove more dangerous a monopoly then Microsoft itself.
  • Ha ha. I think "service not responding" is a more appropriate parallelism. Like we haven't seen *that* before!

    (thank god for posix rkill ;-)

    ---

    MSCE = Marketing Stupid Credit for Everyone

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