The big Linux push began last week with teaser print ads, postcards, emails and web banners. On Sept. 7, IBM broke a 90-second spot on the National Football League's season opener, as well as during the U.S. Open Men's finals, depicting a young boy as a metaphor for the Linux operating system.
The boy sits on a chair in a laboratory-like setting, listening, almost as if he's being programmed by people including actress/director Penny Marshall and boxer Muhammed Ali.
A voice, off-screen, seemingly of a scientist observing the child asks "Does he have a name?" to which another scientist replies, "His name is Linux." The spot ends with an onscreen line "The future is open," followed by the IBM logo. Spending on the spots, from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, was not disclosed.
"Linux is moving from the grassroots into a major force in business," said Chris Wall, senior partner, and co-head of the creative department at Ogilvy. "This is a great chance to evangelize."
The Linux computer operating system, developed by Linus Torvalds, is considered an "open" system in that developers independently can build applications for it. Those purchasing systems with Linux pay little or no fee, and are able to build on the code.
According to research firm IDC, Linux is growing shipment share in server software, jumping from under 6% in 1995 to 26% in 2001. Microsoft's Windows had a 48.9% share. Unix and Netware each held 12%, and others 2%.
"Linux is at the tipping point," said Lisa Baird, IBM's VP-worldwide integrated marketing communications, calling the program "a real threat to Microsoft." She said Linux's open source software is important to facilitate e-business "on demand," a major thrust for IBM.