Shedding Light on Linux
P&PE: How would you expect a professional design or production studio to integrate Linux into its established, possibly already cross-platform, production workflow?
Arvidson: We are going to see the same type of interoperability tools that are available now for Mac-PC cross-platform graphic arts workflows enabling Linux integration.
P&PE: Can you explain more fully the way in which Linux fits into SGI's overall workstation and server strategy for digital media markets?
Arvidson: We will continue to develop IRIX, partially due to a long-term commitment to the U.S. government for high-end systems. IRIX will still be our highest-performance solution; we will then migrate certain IRIX features down to Linux and the rest of the open-source community. This allows us to work with our software partners to develop high-end systems [that are more accessible to] the high-volume market. We've found that, for our IRIX developers, the port over to Linux is very straightforward.
P&PE: How will you position your Linux-based solutions vs. Macs and NT systems?
Arvidson: We enjoy a great level of cooperation with Apple, and that will continue. Already, the bulk of our sales are supplemental tools to Mac desktop systems. With Linux, it's possible that some of our higher-end workstations will be replaced by Linux-based desktop solutions. For example, there a lot of graphics customers we haven't touched because our IRIX price points are out of reach for many small- and medium-size businesses. Also, Linux becomes an affordable option for companies that don't want to go NT for stability reasons.
P&PE: As we wait for product rollout, what factors
are contributing to resistance of Linux acceptance and adoption? What is SGI doing to help remove those roadblocks in our industry?
Arvidson: The biggest pushback is stemming from the fact that Linux is an open-source application. It's an accountability issue: People fear that if they buy a peripheral or download a driver, those devices will not have been tested for compatibility with particular Linux systems. They're worried that they'll have a hard time [getting support] if something goes wrong. For example, there's a very large printer looking at Linux now, but the company's biggest fear as they consider the OS is unsupported peripherals.That's why we are committed to developing fully supported Linux solutions. All the peripherals and software for our systems will be certified by SGI. We are supporting Linux to the same extent that we support IRIX.