Bigtime Linux

As we wrap us this issue of Linux Magazine and wrap up the year, I keep asking myself a simple question: Is Linux better off now than it was a year ago?

As we wrap us this issue of Linux Magazine and wrap up the year, I keep asking myself a simple question: Is Linux better off now than it was a year ago?

As software, Linux is certainly much improved. Progress has been made on all fronts, from the depths of the kernel to the entireties of the various distributions. As an example, I recently upgraded my workstation to Red Hat 8.0, and I have to say I am very impressed. Whether you like Bluecurve or not, you have to admit that Red Hat’s done a great job, and has raised the bar for Linux products to come.

As a community, the answer also is yes. The community continues to produce an impressive spectrum of solutions, all of it Open Source. Packages like MySQL 4.0, JBoss, Apache 2.0, and OpenOffice are impressive achievements by any measure, not to mention the hundreds and thousands of Perl modules and Java classes and shell scripts that are also available.

As a business, well, that’s where things get contentious.

Over the past year, Linux has seemingly been embraced by Corporations, Inc., namely Oracle, IBM, HP, and Sun. Corporate interest ruffles the feathers of many who don’t want Linux leveraged in pursuit of a dollar (and “leveraged” is polite compared to what some say is happening).

On the other hand, others argue that the infusion of corporate support legitimizes Linux, folding it into the mainstream. Corporate interest means corporate funding, which means more development of more code. Sun’s subsidy of Ximian, Transmeta’s hiring of Linus, and IBM’s entire Linux development group are certainly positive examples of corporate underwriting.

Even in this issue, you can see examples of these polar opinions. Flip over to the “Letters” section and read why you should distrust Corporations, Inc. Or, turn instead to the “Shutdown” column to read predictions of rosy industry marriages.

My opinion? Corporations, Inc. have an ulterior motive: profit. They’re not investing in Linux to win popularity contests. Each of those companies wants their proprietary products to succeed, and Linux is there to help. Whether they’re selling hardware, databases, consulting services, software, or just Linux, Linux is a means to an end. Nothing else.

And you know what, that’s great. I’ll ride that wave. I’m happy to see Linux penetrating markets, creating jobs, crunching data, and driving down the cost of computing and information technology. If Linux moves more IBM hardware, or sells more Oracle licenses, hallelujah!

As Joel Spolsky (http://www.joelonsoftware.com) observed in one of his recent, insightful postings, the economic rule of complements applies to Linux. A complement is a product that you usually buy together with another product. The rule of complements (as Joel puts it) is “All else being equal, demand for a product increases when the prices of its complements decrease.”

Ultimately, Corporations, Inc. are investing in Linux for purely selfish reasons. I say, keep it up, fellas.

And on behalf of the entire Linux Magazine crew, Alan, AEleen, Bob, Charlie, Christina, Cindy, Eric, Forrest, Jason, Jeremy, Jon, Matt, Randal, Rogers, Steven, Zonker, and Adam, thanks for reading, and have a wonderful, joyous holiday season.


Martin Streicher, Editor

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