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Olitec To Guarantee Products' Linux Compatibility

Olitec, France's leading manufacturer of modems and communications software, plans to guarantee the compatibility of its products with the Linux operating system, a company spokeswoman said.

"Within two months, Olitec will affix stickers to all its modems, guaranteeing that they are Linux compatible," said the spokeswoman, Isabelle Gomès. "This will require no hardware changes. It will mostly be a matter of making new software available for download."

The company will update product manuals and installation guides to provide instructions for use under Linux and will post initialization scripts on its site, Gomès said. It has already published technical specifications to promote development of free Linux-based communications software.

Headquartered in the city of Nancy in eastern France, Olitec makes and markets V90/K56 Flex modems for Macs and PCs, based on Rockwell semiconductors. It also manufactures 128kbs PCI-card modems for ISDN connections. With overall sales up 49 percent in 1998 to an estimated FF320 million (US$53.3 million), the company claimed a 50 percent domestic market share, up from 39 percent in 1997.

The company hopes to sell some 250,000 modems in the U.S. in 1999, in a modest bid to take on US Robotics/3 COM -- its biggest rival in France -- on the American conglomerate's home turf. Capitalized at FF391 million, Olitec trades on Paris's New Market. On April 19, the share closed at FF360.78, up 5.76 percent.

Linux has about 100,000 users in France, particularly among university servers, according to the Association of Francophone Linux Users (AFUL). Worldwide, some 30 percent of Web servers use Linux, compared to 20 percent in France.

"France is a pioneer in use of Linux, especially among universities," said AFUL's president, Stéfane Fermigier. On the other hand, "French companies are still mostly Microsoft users, but fortunately that's changing," he said.