Monday, October 06, 2003

Jane + SCO v. Linux

Jane does not get enough people yelling at her at home, so she's published a piece on how SCO's lawsuits might limit Linux adoption in the enterprise. She got her wish of more yelling, which she responds to here.

What do I think? I think Linux will do very well in the enterprise, no matter what happens with the SCO suit, which I think might have legal merit but only because copyright laws (and software patents) are utterly asinine. It's true that there may be some infringing code in the kernel, but that can be rewritten. Moreover, businesses are filled with software that they don't really have the licenses for, and it's true some large, exposed companies care about that deeply, but there are also plenty of smaller companies who just don't pay much attention to arcane licensing rules. So the SCO suit may deter some, but not all, and I think the all are very big.

Jane also asks "who is going to fund development?" The answer, on the server anyway, is anyone who makes complementary assets, including hardware, middleware, and applications. The usual suspects include IBM, HP, maybe Sun, Oracle, etc. etc. Certainly for hardware makers who support many operating systems, being able to unify and optimize around just one, even one as not-quite-standard as Linux, represented tremendous efficiencies and savings.

On the client it's a different story, one closer to IBM's mainframe business once the minicomputer appeared. People predicted that IBM's mainframes would go away and you know what -- they didn't. They are still around, doing payroll or whatever, and IBM still maintains and services them as before. They don't sell a bazillion of them any more, and they are a small percentage of the market now, occupying a rather uninteresting niche, but they are still around.

The Windows client is similar -- it's not going to go anywhere, but it will become a less interesting, less important part of the market. The important (most used) applications have shifted from the local (and complex) Word, Excel, PowerPoint to the hosted Yahoo!, Google, and Amazon. And guess what -- they run on Linux. I don't see why replacing local instances of Windows with Linux is all that important since Linux is already running all the important apps -- remotely via the browser.

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