Linux seen vying with Windows for platform dominance

Linux Foundation director sees Linux entering second stage of growth and a computing world dominated by two platforms

Having gained industry-wide recognition, Linux now is moving into its second stage of growth, in which it vies with Microsoft Windows as a dominant computing platform, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said Wednesday.

The computing world will be dominated by two ideas, open and closed, and two platforms, Linux and Windows, according to Zemlin, speaking at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

"I think Windows is not going to go away," he said.

Microsoft, while sometimes demonized, should be respected, said Zemlin. The company is a good competitor and, like a competitor would, spends a lot of money and public relations creating doubt about open source and legal issues, he said. Windows also enjoys the advantage in that users know something will run on the platform if they see the Windows logo. But this comes at a high cost -- lack of choice and vendor lock-in, said Zemlin.

Linux, meanwhile, has the foundation as its advocate.

"The Linux Foundation is here to help the Linux community and industry be more successful in this second stage of growth," Zemlin said. The foundation provides services to protect, promote, and standardize Linux, he said. This includes accelerating the development of the kernel and projects, promoting collaborations and events and other tasks.

Standardization is promoted by Linux Standard Base project. Other projects, such as the Portland project and Carrier Grade Linux, are intended, respectively to bolster desktop compatibility and use of Linux in telecommunications systems. Improved testing and better power management and driver support for Linux are among the other goals of the foundation

On Wednesday, the foundation announced hiring of counsel to help with legal issues. "What they're going to do is help our organization in terms of educating people about important legal issues that affect Linux and open source," said Zemlin.

Zemlin stressed how open source has arrived.

"Open source is a mainstream technology platform," Zemlin said. "Nobody needs to be convinced that open source is a super development methodology for bringing products to market faster," and businesses do not need convincing that they can share development resources and make money off an open-source methodology, said Zemlin.

Linux, though, still has to improve its image to make people "understand that this stuff means serious business," Zemlin said.

 It is easy to be critical about what is wrong with Linux but a little less easy to fix what is wrong, he said. It is hard to come to a consensus on solutions but the community and industry at large can do much better, said Zemlin.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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