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Hewlett to Support Software Of 2 Open Source Companies


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Hewlett-Packard plans to announce tomorrow that it will support two open source software companies, MySQL and JBoss.

The move is part of Hewlett-Packard's effort to gain a competitive advantage against I.B.M. as each company tries to position itself as the leading corporate champion of open source software. The Hewlett-Packard endorsement, analysts say, is also a sign that open source products beyond the Linux operating system are increasingly in demand from mainstream corporate customers.

Hewlett-Packard will offer a single point of support for customers who want to run several layers of open source software including products from Linux, MySQL and JBoss. MySQL markets a database; JBoss offers an applications server -- a layer of software for controlling Web applications that are linked to a database.

''We're offering a fully supported open source environment,'' Hewlett-Packard's vice president for Linux, Martin Fink, said.


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Many companies like the flexibility of open source software, which they can tweak and modify in ways that are not permitted by most commercial software makers. The savings can be substantial, partly because of free or low-cost software licenses but mostly because Linux runs on lower-cost hardware, using the chip technology that came out of the personal computer industry.

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But businesses are often reluctant to rely on small start-up companies for technology in their data centers. The support pledged by I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard for Red Hat, a Linux distributor, established its credibility in the corporate market.

MySQL and JBoss are hopeful that they will similarly benefit from the Hewlett-Packard move. ''Customers are starting to feel more comfortable with open source software, and they are even more comfortable if a big company like H-P stands behind it,'' said Bob Bickel, vice president for corporate strategy and development at JBoss.

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Marten Mickos, chief executive of MySQL, said: ''Practically, this means a more direct access to the market for us. This should show up as increased sales for us, and H-P, over the next 12 months.''

Hewlett-Packard is promoting open source software mainly as a way to sell more server computers.

I.B.M., by contrast, has been a big backer of Linux both to sell more hardware and as a low-cost, powerful operating system for its commercial software products, like its DB/2 database and its WebSphere middleware, which includes applications server software. For I.B.M., Linux provides a way to undermine software rivals that do a strong business in commercial operating systems, notably Microsoft with Windows and Sun Microsystems with Solaris.

But I.B.M.'s database and applications server products could themselves be undermined someday by open source offerings like MySQL and JBoss. ''I.B.M. fears open source as it moves up above the operating system,'' Mr. Fink of Hewlett-Packard said.

Hewlett-Packard has few such fears. Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC, a research firm, said, ''H-P doesn't have much of a software business, so it sees open source software as a clear-cut opportunity to sell more hardware.''

Hewlett-Packard is the leader in server computers running Linux, but its market share is slipping, according to an IDC report on Friday. In the first quarter, Hewlett-Packard had 28.8 percent of revenue in the market for Linux-based server computers, followed by Dell Computer with 18.2 percent and I.B.M. with 17.5 percent. The market shares for Hewlett-Packard and Dell declined from the year-earlier quarter, while I.B.M.'s share in Linux-based servers increased.

In the overall market for server computers, I.B.M. is the leader, followed by Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Dell. In the first quarter, I.B.M. and Dell had the strongest year-over-year gains in revenue. Hewlett-Packard's revenue grew slightly, and Sun's fell.

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