Speaking at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Hong Kong today, Jon "Mad dog" Hall, executive director of the non-profit vendor group Linux International, gave his reaction to yesterday's news that Bill Gates is stepping down as chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp. and taking on the new title of chief software architect.

Hall, a grey-bearded evangelist for the free, open-source operating system that proponents tout as a rival to Windows, welcomed the Microsoft announcement.

"If Gates is going back into programming and design, this is the best thing that ever happened to Linux," he said.

Hall's comment drew laughter and applause during a panel discussion at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo Hong Kong 2000, held this week at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.