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Color Sherwin-Williams (Big) Blue

Cleveland, Ohio-based paint company Sherwin-Williams gave Linux a boost and signed with IBM to convert its computers and cash registers in more than 2,500 stores to the open source operating system over the next year.

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. will provide the company with a portfolio of services, including consulting as well as IBM NetVista personal computers running Turbolinux.

In addition, all peripherals such as printers, scanners, cash drawers and switches will be Linux compatible. The company currently has a Unix-based system and the Linux installation is said to be one of the largest deployments of the open source system in a chain store environment.

The Sherwin-Williams' Point of Sale and inventory applications will run in the Linux environment, and the company said its paint tinting and color matching applications will also be tied into the network, allowing the formulas for custom paint blends to be filed and kept securely for a customer's next project.

Pilot installations have already taken place in stores in the Cleveland area. Main deployment will begin in July and completed by second quarter 2003. Back office support systems are not part of the deal.

It's a nice boost for Linux, but the OS isn't being asked to do a lot of heavy lifting, analysts said. "It's just a nice, low-cost platform for doing kind of everyday computing," Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata was quoted as saying.

Spending wasn't disclosed. Other contenders for the contract were Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sun Microsystems.