Opinion: As Good as It Gets for Linux
Hi, i found this a few minutes ago and thought maybe others would like to see it, it looks like tux is starting to spank through the server market again :) (yay tux!!!!!) i got this from yahoo news and i think its great Linux is getting more recognized, but the guy that wrote this seems to have some anal problem with the Penguin, either way, Linux and Free BSD getting used more is what i think will be good for the computer world, i dont hate Microsoft or something like that, i just think for a server you cant beat the Daemon and the Penguin :)
Remember the scene in that Jack Nicholson movie in which he opens the door to a psychiatrist's waiting room and says to the waiting crowd, "What if this is as good as it gets?" That question came to me in thinking about all the recent announcements from hardware and software vendors that are jumping on the Linux bandwagon.
There is no doubt that the open source Linux operating system is doing well. According to IDC, sales of servers loaded with Linux software rose 41 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002, to about US$600 million.
Hewlett-Packard in particular appears to be having a field day with Linux. It recently announced an alliance with Red Hat.
About 15 percent of HP's servers are bundled with Linux, and sales of these servers doubled in the fourth quarter of 2002. For all of 2002, HP garnered $2 billion in Linux-related revenue.
A recent survey by Forrester Research paints an even more promising picture of Linux' future. Of the North American CIOs who have already deployed Linux, about 72 percent said they planned to increase their investment in it. Even more compelling is the fact that 13 of the study's 50 respondents are running Linux on desktops or workstations.
It's Uphill from Here
It's great to see Linux getting the attention it deserves. But I wonder if any Linux lovers suspect they are witnessing the apogee of Linux' reign. It's time to drink up the air and enjoy the moment, because it will not last.
What I'm saying is that while Linux has great legs, it will run out of steam eventually. Its market penetration will increase, but not by much. Remember the technology adoption life cycle model in which disruptive technologies have to "cross the chasm" to be accepted by mainstream users? Linux is right at edge of the chasm, and I don't think it's going to make it across to the other side.
Why? When I take a hard look at Linux's prospects, three things jump out at me:
Big Name Required
1. To cross the chasm, an OS needs a big marketing machine behind it. Linux doesn't have one. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" stuff only goes so far. Who's going to convince enterprises that Linux needs to be in every nook and cranny of their data centers? Are we leaving this up to Hewlett-Packard? Running e-mail and print servers is one thing; putting critical transaction-processing apps onto a new OS is something else. When a server goes down, you want somebody outside the organization that you can blame. Who's that going to be if you're running Linux? Are independent Linux vendors really going to give the same quality support as an IBM ?
Moreover, Linux is a fractured OS -- everyone has their own customized piece of this software. How are enterprises going to deal with what may be multiple distributions of Linux in their enterprise? Why would they want to deal with it?
Not for the Desktop
2. Linux will never be a mainstream desktop OS. At best, it will be a niche OS for the desktop. There just isn't enough capital out there for independent software vendors that might consider developing desktop applications based on Linux. That could change in the future, but I don't see the incentive for application developers. Would you want to go up against Microsoft's
But even if applications do emerge, there's the desktop dominance of Microsoft to consider. Getting market penetration on the desktop is based on a Gordian knot of business relationships. Microsoft still has too much leverage to be challenged in this space. And for those who don't think the desktop is important, think of all the formerly server-based tasks that are now handled by client PCs. Linux cannot barrel into the enterprise at the server level without developing a flanking position at the desktop.
Downturn Will End
3. The economic downturn won't last forever. A big part of Linux' appeal is that it is perceived as a cheaper OS to buy and run. "Intel economics for an enterprise-class system," is the common refrain. Now, we all know that cheaper licensing doesn't equal inexpensive operations. But even if that were true, for a majority of CIOs, the discount is not great enough to offset some of the risks that running Linux entails. The slower adopters of technology, the conservative CIOs who wait for technologies to prove themselves before they adopt them, will have a tough time balancing that cost-reliability equation.
Don't get me wrong. It's great that Microsoft and other OS vendors have some lean, mean competition to deal with. It makes the whole industry better. I just think it's instructive to step back every once in a while, sober up and take a hard look at where things are headed. We, the industry, have been wrong before.
I'd love to see the Linux folks prove me wrong. But from where I sit, after this year, Linux' best days will be behind it. Linux is more than a fad, but it's less than a dynasty. This is as good as it gets.
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