Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin has claimed he doesn’t care about Microsoft anymore. Two decades after Linus Torvalds developed his famous operating system kernel, the battle between Linux and Microsoft is over and Linux has won, Zemlin added.
With the one glaring exception of the desktop computer, Zemlin claims that Linux has outpaced Microsoft throughout the server and mobile markets. “I think we just don’t care that much [about Microsoft] anymore,” Zemlin said to Network World. “They used to be our big rival, but now it’s kind of like kicking a puppy.”
While Microsoft’s stock has stagnated over the past decade, open source torchbearer Red Hat has soared, Zemlin notes. And Linux software is everywhere, he added, as proponents of the open source project prepare to celebrate its 20th year of existence.
“I think that on the 20th anniversary, it’s worth reflecting back on where we came from,” he said. “Linux had a humble start as a project for a college student in Helsinki, to something today that runs 70% of global equity trading, something that powers, really, the majority of Internet traffic, whether it’s Facebook, Google or Amazon.”
Today Linux can be found in consumer electronics devices, like Sony televisions and camcorders, the Amazon Kindle, and in smartphones and tablets as part of Google’s Android. Linux leads the market from the tiniest embedded systems to the largest supercomputers, with more than 90% of the Top 500 supercomputing sites in the world running Linux.
“Linux has come to dominate almost every category of computing, with the exception of the desktop,” Zemlin said, where Windows still powers roughly 9 out of 10 traditional desktops, with the rest going to Mac and Linux. Linux’s failure to capture desktop share is “disappointing to many,” Zemlin admitted.
When asked why Linux has failed to build desktop share, Zemlin said, “There was this monopolist who just kept everybody else out of the marketplace.”
But while Microsoft has sold 300 million Windows 7 licenses and reported record second-quarter revenue of nearly $20 billion, Zemlin said Linux people aren’t giving up on the desktop market just yet.
But Zemlin added that “the good news is the traditional PC desktop is becoming less important, and areas where Linux is very strong in terms of client computing are becoming more important.” That’s a reference to smartphones and tablets, where Microsoft has struggled to unseat Apple and Google’s Android.
Zemlin believes that as smartphones and tablets draw people away from their desktop PCs and laptops, Microsoft’s hold on the computing market will diminish.
“Today people use smartphones more, in many ways, than they may use their traditional PC,” Zemlin said. “In that case, Linux really does have dominant market share through things like Android or other versions of Linux that are out there in the mobile space.”
On the tablet front, though, Apple’s iPad is far and away the leader, which poses a problem to those who prefer open source technologies.
“Apple is your worst enemy and your best friend if you’re an open source guy,” Zemlin said. “Apple in many ways has done a lot of good things for open source and for Linux. It changed the definition of what client computing is. That has been good for Linux.”
“Apple also has a lot of open source components within their products and tends to work very well, in some cases, with the open source community. But I’m not going to argue that they don’t have a very closed system as well,” he added.
Linus Torvalds started developing the Linux kernel in 1991 as an open source alternative to Unix. Combined with the GNU software created by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, it forms the core of many operating system distributions.
Depending on one’s point of view, Linux began either on Aug. 25, 1991, when Torvalds posted a message saying he was creating a free operating system as “just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu,” or on Oct. 5, 1991, when the first Linux code was released.
Linux enthusiasts will celebrate both dates, but the main activities will take place Aug. 17-19 at the LinuxCon North America conference in Vancouver, Canada. The Linux Foundation is also holding a big event this week in San Francisco, the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. [Linux-Foundation via Network World]