Mike Gualtieri of Forrester pontificates on the swan song of the venerable open source computer kernel Linux, declaring its hopes for world domination to be “game over”.
Poor Linux. It struggled so hard to dominate the world. It was the little open source engine that could, but it didn’t. It never even came close to Microsoft Windows on the desktop, with less than 2% share of desktops. The bright spot for Linux is that 60%+ of servers on the Internet run Linux.
But the real end to Linux’s hope for world dominance came when mobile platforms iOS and Android cleaned clocks in the mobile market. Sure, Android is built on top of Linux, but Linux is only one of many piece parts of the Android mobile operating system. It is not Linux.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Linux is, of course, because if anything is Linux, it’s Android.
Linux is the computer kernel — the core program that runs all the hardware and lets a user interface, all the whizbang pretty stuff that keeps you from having to learn The Matrix, sit on top of it and translate between machine and human. You don’t “run Linux” on your desktop, you run a Linux-based operating system on your desktop. Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, Debian, SuSE, and a thousand other Linux distributions all vie for the tiny sliver of desktop market share that isn’t gobbled up primarily by Windows XP. And yes, this desktop market share is indeed rather slim. However, that’s not the only computer space available for market share, not by a long shot — there’s also the supercomputer space, which is dominated by Linux, and the aforementioned 60+% of internet servers running Linux when it could alternately run one of many versions of Windows, FreeBSD, Mac OS X Server, or some flavour of UNIX. And then there’s the mobile phone market.
And Android, Google’s phone OS, has captured by some accounts over half of the phone market — iPhones, Blackberries, and phones running Symbian or Windows or some other proprietary OS have to be counted together to rival the Linux heavyweight. Merely by having Linux as your kernel, you are running Linux, in the same sense that if your house uses power from the power grid, you’re running Nikola Tesla’s alternating current (rather than Thomas Edison’s inferior direct current!).
I don’t personally care what Linux’ market share is. The philosophy is somewhat parallel to the various freethought movements in that it rejects dogmatic adherence to the predatory practices of one particular monolithic company, approaching knowledge as something that should be spread freely rather than hoarded jealously. When you download a piece of open source software, you’re not just getting it for free, you’re also getting the freedom to participate in the software development process should you so choose. The process is entirely transparent, so you know that everyone has access to the source code, so it must be that much more secure to keep the baddies out. And it does. Exploits, compared to the gaping holes you get with the welded-shut Windows philosophy, are few and far between, and they’re patched extraordinarily quickly when they’re discovered — usually in time intervals counted in days, rather than months or years.
All of the inherent merits of the free operating system aside, it is not dead. It is not game over. It’s not even napping. In this household, we run it on my work laptop, on my home desktop, and on Jodi’s netbook. We run it on our media centre. Freethought Blogs is running it. Google runs it for every one of their hundreds of servers. We’re running it on soon to be dozens of servers at work, under my jurisdiction. If our PS3 was not one of the now-closed versions of the firmware, I’d almost certainly run it on that as well. And hilariously enough, forrester.com is one of those 60% of servers running Linux.
If Linux is dead, so’s your server, Gualtieri. Sorry to hear about the death of your blog host.