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Who owns Linux? Not us, says IBM

Jan 19, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

* IBM TV ad reminiscent of 'Children of the Corn'

If you’ve been watching any of the NFL playoffs with friends or family, by now, you and probably everyone sitting in your TV room may be familiar with Linux.

That’s because IBM has been ratcheting up its Linux TV ad campaign, showing its conceptual Linux TV spot frequently during the playoffs.

The ads, which started airing in September, feature a towheaded child – think of a pre-adolescent Eminem, or an extra from “Children of the Corn” – who is meant to represent Linux. (As the voiceover unambiguously states: “His name is Linux”.)

The boy, seen in a stark-white room, is confronted by a series of famous people – from Muhammad Ali to Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. – who impart their knowledge on him. The boy “Linux” is meant to be impressionable, absorbing the knowledge of a world community (i.e. the open source community).

Personally, the ad kind of freaks me out. (Maybe I saw “Children of the Corn” too many times). But while watching football recently, a friend asked me “Is Linux a new product from IBM?” That made me stop and think. What’s the message IBM is trying to send?

“A lot of companies claim they’re the best at offering Linux,” says Jim Stallings, IBM’s general manager for Linux. “The whole genesis of the TV commercials is to help educate the general public and make them aware that Linux is open. It takes a community to grow it, and that it’s not a single company’s product. We also want to show that IBM is associated with it.”

Interesting. At least the kid in the ads isn’t dressed in a t-shirt with an IBM logo on it.