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IBM Takes Linux to the Movies

IBM's mission to push the Linux OS into the mainstream got a boost Wednesday with a deal to fit point-of-sale applications into 2,700 movie concession stands run by the Regal Entertainment Group.

The deal with Regal Cinemas, the largest rollout of Linux in the retail point-of-sale environment, gives Big Blue a significant client for its IBM SurePOS 500 systems, which works like high-tech cash registers at concession stands.

It runs the open-source Linux OS from Red Hat and links with Regal's IBM eServer iSeries midrange server at the company's headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Financial terms of the Regal deal were not disclosed but IBM said an average of 13 SurePOS 500s terminals would be used at each theater complex.

Regal, which operates 5,788 screens in 548 theatres, also plan to test a new, in-theater, Linux-based kiosk that lets movie patrons purchase tickets or retrieve tickets purchased online.

For Big Blue, which just scored a deal with Red Hat to co-market Linux-based support and services to the enterprise sector, the Regal partnership lends credibility to its long-term strategy to encourage corporate adoption of the free, open-source implementation of UNIX .

"We chose Linux because it is an open, affordable operating system, giving us lower cost and relative ease of programming with the Java2 projects we already had in place," said Todd King, a VP at Regal.

The IBM POS system, when linked with the in-store server and the IBM eServer iSeries at headquarters, reduces the settlement time at each theater and improves the accuracy of sales and inventory data, King said.

According to IDC, Linux adoption jumped 24 percent in 2001, making it the fastest-growing operating system. IBM, banking on IDC forecasts for a 37 percent growth rate for Linux in 2002, has dumped $1 billion into hardware and software related to Linux and the rollout of Linux systems in movie theatres is just the tip of the iceberg, analysts say.