Linux

Coming out party with Linux


Recent headlines have made me feel like it's 1999 and Linux has just peeked its head through the veil of mainstream computing. Everyone is all wide-eyed about the little operating system that could. But this time there's a different feeling surrounding the coming out party. This time it's serious. This time Linux is the belle of the ball.

It all started out for me, this past week, with an article on CNET about third-party free IT departments. The article (here it is if you're interested) goes on to state that IT departments do most of their services around open source projects and not third-party consulting companies. What this means to me is that IT departments across the globe are relying more on open source than proprietary software.

The next step of this coming out was when Microsoft itself released their Open Source Interoperability Initiative. This one I couldn't believe myself. The company that, just a few short years ago, was hell-bent on taking Linux out of the equation is stepping up and basically saying, "We give up! We're going to play nice together from now on." Now don't get me wrong, I am still skeptical about this. But the very fact that MS says (on its own Web site):

The Open Source Interoperability Initiative exists to foster more open engagement between Microsoft and open source communities. It will encompass a broad range of facilities, events, and resources supporting interoperability, including labs, plug fests, technical content and opportunities for ongoing cooperative development.

This makes me think that something good just might be coming down the pike for open source from Microsoft. Of course, on the other (more conspiratorial) hand this makes me think that it could merely be a ploy on MS's part to keep the EU from further anti-trust suits against Microsoft for monopolistic practices. Seriously - if MS is now playing fair with open source, how could anti-trust suits be applied? So maybe this is a you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours. But, in all honesty, who cares? Even if this interoperability on MS's part is only a means to an end, it still greatly benefits open source. And so long as this isn't some odd back door for MS, this could all work out great for everyone involved. Especially end users and IT departments.

And don't forget, Walmart has now become a big player in this coming out party. Remember all of those gOS powered PCs Walmart sold out of? Well guess what? Walmart is now one upping that by selling the Everex Cloudbook line of micro laptops powered by gOS Rocket and the Everex gBook laptop.

Linux to the masses for sure. At those price points not only can the fan boy enjoy Linux but the average Jane can as well.

This could be, as many have said, a big year for open source. I believe that projects such as OpenOffice, The GIMP, and Scribus are going to make big strides. And I am sure Ubuntu and upstarts like gOS are going to continue to be embraced by the less nerdly community. Even, as in the case of Walmart sales, if the community at large doesn't even know they are embracing open source technology, they are.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you Linux, in her fine hand-made gown of Tulle and Satin. The Belle of the ball.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

30 comments
dawgit
dawgit

Again Jack, Did you just wake up? Linux is, as it has been for the last 10 years steadily growing. Nothing new, nothing to get excited about. Just sit back, listen to the groaning of MS trying to keep un-folded. Outside of North America, that MS might actually own. They do, and have had, competion in the market. And they should not get special treatment by hidding behiding their psudo-propriety. -d

Ziskey
Ziskey

Although I think this is a direct response to the EU, I hope Ray Ozzie will bring a different mindset to MS. Maybe this will give him ammunition to change the culture at the top.

normhaga
normhaga

Perhaps the reason is a little more Machiavellian. Apple attempted to get the open source community to help with OS X by using an open source initiative known as Project Darwin. When they found that the FOSS people were also using the available source to make OS X run on non Apple hardware, the project was more or less closed. Maybe MS is attempting to find out what the users want and expect, maybe MS is attempting to get FOSS to do some of their work, maybe MS is serious about the open source project.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You don't get to be as successful as they have, by being stupid. Personally I think Vista has finally taught them the cost of proceeding down the route they always have. It was never tenable over the long term if any even half way credible competition appeared. Linux has turned out to be more than that

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Maybe they're going to develop an MS Linux distribution and cut into Red Hat and Novell's corporate markets. I've long wondered why they haven't already done this. Why lose Windows (Vista) customers to someone else when you can shift them another of your own products?

RipVan
RipVan

There are a lot of people with various opinions about implementation of Linux. Generally, people compare the installation of Windows/Linux for above average users and state that until Linux becomes as easy to install as Windows, it just won't get more traction. But by far the most interesting comments were about people who are SUPPOSED to know Windows and how they can't even find their way around any computer system. I use both systems at home, although I have more Linux than Windows on my network. And inevitably (or, as they say in high schools nowadays "inedibly"), when desktop techs or admins around here have problems with crashed Windows systems, or virus infected computers, they bring them to me. I don't do anything any average person couldn't figure out, but these "Windows wiz kids" just don't know what to do. They tread water keeping up with working systems, and aren't that good with something that responds in an out of the ordinary manner. They are basically users with passwords. So lately I have thought of this as being more than the "this is what I use at work, so I will use it at home" philosophy. Forget ease of use or installation equal to Windows. Linux will have to become "EASIER TO USE AND INSTALL" in order to get the attention of the sleepwalkers out there. They are making quite a go of it, and the progress has been impressive. Thank goodness for the pressure being applied by the EU!! I won't put Windows on computers for friends and relatives anymore. My 80 year old dad and my 19 and 16 year old kids do fine with Linux. And my wife will just have to ask the kids how to do things. Doesn't matter if it is Windows or Linux, she is like far too many users. Can't be bothered to read messageboxes, and really couldn't comprehend any user level message in either system. She has to ask someone what to do when anything out of the ordinary or new pops up. (And she loves to talk about how she is an "advanced" user at work. I have no reason to doubt her, I have a few hundred at work just like her, some better, and many with less ability.) So I just don't think it is about making Linux "as easy as Windows." With a generally clueless Windows user base (not a knock, just what I see), it has to be "easier" in order to capture them. And the support staff for those people will probably need to be captured first. And I can tell you, that group is already scared of what they currently use...

RipVan
RipVan

With Vi$ta, the type of user you speak of will have to discard their PC at upgrade time and get a new one. That is the new paradigm. Before, when M$ wanted a new revenue stream, they just made them have to buy a "new improved" (ha ha) OS. However, the bullies latest move has put new hardware into the mix as well. But more and more people are finally saying that enough is enough. Unfortunately, with things as they currently sit, people have to look for someone who can save them from the whirlpool pulling them down. But even the ones who can't get out know what is going on and don't like it. At least that helps for users to recognize that the company in question has never cared a whit about them, other than to make a full frontal assult on their pocketbook. So when people can easily pop in a disc and get the Redomond monkey off their backs, they will do so, and quite happily. M$ doesn't currently care who jumps ship because the numbers aren't big enough. They are only motivated by dollars, so if the numbers were to get bigger, they would then be concerned. Smarter users or an easier OS alternative will hasten that day.

dawgit
dawgit

Most users don't install their own OS anyway, so your point is mute for maybe 90+% of users. They do, and will, use whatever OS is in front of them. -d

Justin James
Justin James

MS does have an internal *Nix that they work on; if memory serves, it is derived from or licenses code from or is forked from System V, but don't quote me on that. It's the same principle as them maintaining a PPC codebase of Windows, even though NT 4 was the last one to be released publically on PPC, which is how they got the OS for the XBox (it was originally a modded Windows 2000 for PPC). Apple does this as well, it is how they jumped to Intel so quickly and relatively painlessly. Microsoft also has another internal research OS, I *beleive* called "Singularity", and possibly another research OS internally as well. BTW folks, Microsoft has *always* played the "we'll soon be compatable with *Nix" card at some level. Microsoft Services for UNIX brings POSIX compatability to Windows, for example. And does anyone remember when you could get Internet Explorer for *Nix? J.Ja

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

This has always been within MS's power. They've always has at least two options, They could promote an open interface for interoperability, though given they often fail at that with their own offerings... It is the cheaper option though. The other thing they could always do and in closed source or even restricted if they wished was to start developing for both OS's. I think that they've seen that there is more money in applications than there is in the OS. The only judgment to make at this point is how big a share another plaform has to have, to make it worthwhile taking on the cost of supporting your applications on another. Let's remember MS are a business and highly successful one, even they have to take their heads out of their asses every now and then and look at the numbers. Where is the money, windows os, or office, SQL Server, Exchange, Active Directory, Visual Studio.. As we move, more and more to the PC as an appliance, operating system means less and less. Worse still for them if their thin web client dream takes off, where is their desktop OS?

da philster
da philster

Given the less than stellar performance of their latest OS, MS may well be looking at Linux as the basis of a future OS. Bundle it for free with copies of Office, etc. If I recall correctly, (and I quote PC World) "Microsoft Office made its debut as a $500 Macintosh suite containing three already popular programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)...snip......The Windows version came a year later", so that wouldn't be that much of a stretch. Quite agree with you that the big bucks are not necessarily with Windows OS. Interesting times indeed.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

their biggest mistake. They believed because they had most of the market, they were the market. Nope, afraid not. Hmm how about MSSUX, for a distro name. ROFL.

jlwallen
jlwallen

do you think this Open Source Initiative could also be a ploy by MS to attempt to finalize the deal with Yahoo? I think Yahoo is very much afraid of what MS would do with all their hard work on the Open Source software...one reason why I think they are backing off from the deal.

Jaqui
Jaqui

from feedback. if their existing client base is telling them that Microsoft Yahoo would not be providing any services to them Yahoo might reconsider the deal to keep their client base. I know Yahoo recently bought MyBlogLog and integrated the login with the rest of their network. This caused a few negative comments, in that Yahoo changed user ids on MyBlogLog when they did that. [ more consolidation of online services. ]

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Linux has had more "coming out" parties than a sorority at a private women's college. Seriously, I've seen "This is Linux' year" articles periodically for the several years. Each cites some indicative survey or trend. At least in the U.S., it remains confined to the server room finishing schools where it has hairdressers and dressmakers to keep it looking pretty and mind it's manners. Desktop installations are primarily running for those same handlers or for people with far more computer interest than the average user. I would like to see Linux get a larger share of the installation base, but what makes this rosy-glassed debutante ball any different from the rest?

jlwallen
jlwallen

this is the first year that MS has actually come out and hinted at supporting Linux. that makes it much bigger than any other year.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Maybe when I see some tangible technologies from the Redmond suitors I'll believe the young lady has made her debut. Lacking any such evidence, I suspect Bill is merely interested in leading her down the moonlit garden path with hopes of having his wicked way with her virtues. I think it's rather cynical that many (me included, I admit) regard validation from MS as crucial to the long-term viability of a non-MS OS.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

Is that several distros have access to work better with Win domains, such as SUSE. This has been a big problem for a client based systems for some time. Since they cannot join a domain, or get pushed group poicies, it requires more work on the administrators side of things to control them better. This may be a drawback for other distros, that do not share patents with MS, but it is a big boost for those that do! I share in your skepticism about being the big 'coming out' party, as this will take more time. However, Linux is becoming a player for the desktop for many, and is starting to be offered (and selling) by retailers that never had them previously. This IS an indication that more people are getting their hands onto Linux, which IS a boon for the inux community and open source altogether

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Well, I admit that a (possibly perceived) difficulty getting Linux to interact with my domain has discouraged me from considering it as anything other than an excellent but undeployable technology. I believe Jaqui mentioned AD integration as a feature of the latest SUSE several months ago, but the data was dumped from my 64K of brain RAM to make room for something else (probably porn). I'll have to remember to take a look at it.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I have to agree with you! I've always said I would never under ANY circumstance deploy any version of Linux (outside of the server room) unless it could be joined to my domain and managed through group policy/active directory. I do as a matter of fact have an old inventory pc sitting under my desk now with the latest version of SUSE on it, and successfully domained. Once I have a few kinks worked out I will deploy maybe one or two boxes and monitor them very closely to see what happens. It doesn't mean I'll convert the entire pc side of my network to Linux...but it will do nicely in a few spots IF it can be managed properly. Last thing I want is some Linux pc that I have to spend time on individually to lock it down. I don't want some power user out their who knows more about Linux than I do messing up his pc or violating policy. Sure, it's my job to lock everything down properly but mistakes do happen and I by no means know everything. I've always said Linux will never make it as a home OS in any significant percentage until they play ball with corporate enviroments. Like it or not...regardless of if it's right/wrong/cheaper/more expensive/stupid/intelligent Windows dominates the workplace, therefor it dominates the home. Make it work at work under a Windows managed enviroment and you'll wean more and more people off Windows in greater numbers. It's slowly happening it seems...verrrrry slowly.

DanLM
DanLM

I got such a great deal at Walmart and I like this operating system, what ever it is... I had no problem learning it... Word of mouth is just as important for sales as anything else... Dan

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

"That being said, it does make you sit up and notice when major retailers are offering cheap Linux pc's and selling out. That is something that prove my argument totally wrong. Why?" Because it's walmart and they sell ANYTHING. Period. Good, bad or ugly lol. I walked out yesterday with a case of motor oil, 100 rounds of .45 cal ACP ammo, a bag of Doritos and a Tranformers toy for my son. I walked all the way around the store just to gather my items and ended up making impulse purchases because the items were convenient or on sale(ammo & Doritos). If you just put it in the store, it will sell due to the fact that customers walk all over the store and are exposed to merchandise. They even go to great lengths to make sure each store is stocked according to what items/genres they sell the most of. A company called Teradata with huge data warehouse facilities makes that happen. It may sell at Walmart on sub $400 pc's, but I'd be more impressed to see it in Circuit City/Best Buy on higher end models.

jlwallen
jlwallen

linux will play well and probably much faster than before

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I've also felt that people use windows at home because that is what they use at work. ... it does make you sit up and notice when major retailers are offering cheap Linux pc's and selling out. That is something that prove my argument totally wrong. Why?" I wonder how many people buying the inexpensive Linux systems work with a computer at their job. There are still millions of people with jobs that don't involve a computer, and many of these are at the lower end of the economic curve. Unfamiliar with Windows or Linux, the price may be the critical factor. Scummy mentioned offers from retailers who had not offered Linux systems before. Wal-mart has been offering them for years, although I have yet to see one in a brick-and-mortar store. Dell is on it's second attempt after the first withered, but their web-based also. Maybe some Mom-and-Pop's in bigger cities offer Linux installations, but no retailer in this neck of the woods carries it.

DanLM
DanLM

[i]Like it or not...regardless of if it's right/wrong/cheaper/more expensive/stupid/intelligent Windows dominates the workplace, therefor it dominates the home. Make it work at work under a Windows managed enviroment and you'll wean more and more people off Windows in greater numbers.[/i] I've also felt that people use windows at home because that is what they use at work. Alot of people learned their way around computers because of their work environment, they of course will want the same os at home. That being said, it does make you sit up and notice when major retailers are offering cheap Linux pc's and selling out. That is something that prove my argument totally wrong. Why? The business world doesn't want to move to Linux at the desk top because of the cost to educate(just one reasons). If they see the education occuring on it's own and crunch the numbers in savings as far as license fee's. They may start moving over. Your point about group policy and certain Linux os's being able to be included in group policies is a serious plus for them moving to the desk top. Who knows... I use MS at home for my os. I prefer Unix to Linux at the server level(BSD). So, from my view point... I'll wait and see. If I get moved to a Linux desktop at work, I probably will move to the same at home. Dan

skiplarson
skiplarson

Just more FUD from MS. They will let you interoperate as long as you pay them a patent fee for any program that uses any of these protocals comercially. Since that would violate the GPL, Linux is not going to be any better off than they were.

starkwead
starkwead

Microsoft is a large corporation which tells me they are getting involved because their frightened. Open Source Linux is getting it's way into the average persons computer. I'm fairly certain that what they say won't stick; it's just a few words to help them legally. Now lets say, maybe if Microsoft did support Open Source. This could be a big benefit to the whole world. One day or another they will have to pair up with the members who may overtake them. I'm not saying in a few years, but Open Source is free, and will creep it's way into more and more peoples computers.

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