NEW ORLEANS -- Everyone's bullish about the future of open-source software in the business world at this year's LinuxCon in New Orleans, as IBM announces a billion-dollar new investment and Linux business use continues to spread.
Big Blue is set to pour its money into a range of different efforts to promote the use of Linux, including the creation of a Power Linux Systems Center in France and the expansion of an online development environment for programmers working with its Power server line.
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IBM, understandably, was eager to draw parallels with its 2000 announcement of another $1 billion in funding for Linux development,but Linux Foundation higher-ups painted the event as one of a larger wave of broader Linux adoption.
"What we're witnessing is the new network effect that's helping Linux," said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin.
"[Software] application APIs basically locked everyone into Windows for like 20 years. Now, it's flipped over. The network effect that matters in technology is hardware support," he says.
"Because you access the Internet from everywhere, and it's the fact that Android, in many ways, has made it so every system-on-a-chip vendor, every architecture cares about Linux support," Zemlin said.
SUSE director of open-source Alan Clarke, who is a member of the Linux Foundation's board of directors, praised IBM's decision to offer some of its POWER server architecture under open-source license.
"I think it'll be very good that they [IBM] are opening [POWER] up and trying to recruit partners, I think that'll breathe some new life into it," he says.
However, Clarke adds, it's the openness inherent to Linux that is likely to prove the most important factor to its broad adoption."Linux is very attractive ... because of the modularity with which it's built," he says. "It's easy to go in there and tune it, tailor it and make it fit exactly what you want it to do."
All of this is not to say, of course, that Linux will push Windows out of the business arena tomorrow. In addition to institutional inertia slowing the pace of change, Microsoft Office continues to dominate the productivity world.
"It's Office Office is the app. That will be their foothold for a long period of time," admits Zemlin. "Office is a real issue, I'm not going to deny that."
He decries the continued use of traditionally structured products in lieu of web apps.
"Client-server applications are not moving us forward, it's a regression. Every time you build a client-server app, the Internet dies a little bit," he said.
Nevertheless, Zemlin said that the younger generation hasn't been raised on Word and Excel to the same degree as its elders.
"Kids in high school and college, they use Google Apps pretty much as default," he asserts. "So now you have this web-centric model that will move people away from a Windows world into a world where the underlying OS, to some degree, doesn't matter, as long as you've got a standards-based web browser."
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