Back in those exciting days when evangelizing Linux and open source was still exciting, I almost got lynched for a simple statement at a Linux conference. The statement: “Linux will only be important when no one cares“.

Hindsight being what it is, I’d like to think I was right, at least on servers, in embedded devices. Let’s hold judgement on desktops for a moment.

Linux is now just expected. Kind of like VMS in the 80’s, Windows in the 90’s, if you aren’t doing Linux, you are ignoring a significant and increasing part of the market.

So what, you say? (And you’d be right… see, no one cares).

Well the issue facing Linux is a new and increasing confusion on what Linux is. In the last year as a consultant, I’ve met with 5 companies who wanted to know: 1. which Linux to develop for? and 2. how to get out of the loop on maintaining multiple, development-incompatible Linux flavors.

Well, there’s no good answer. We still have the Linux community (the last remaining “cares” group ready to extol the glories of their favorite distribution, be it Red Hat, Novell, Ubuntu, or my choice for a new distribution “Britney Spears Linuxthe distro with nothing hidden. It’s not trivial for companies, especially small companies, to pick and create support for all of the possible choices, nor does the current “standards” cover all the possible contingencies. (But at least the FSG is trying). BTW, big companies face the exact same challenge; they may have more resources to throw at the problem.

Already, the picket signs are up. “Just make it open source and we’ll do the rest”. Yeah right…

Believe it or not, it costs real money to release a product to open source. It can cost real money to contain potential damage from bad implementations. or instance, say I release a device driver for a new storage device. I open source the Red Hat version of the driver, and it gets ported off to my BSpears Linux. Some unnamed company decides to use the driver and my hardware device to store their customer database, in spite of the “not supported” comments. When the device hits 80% full, the ported driver has a seizure and crashes, taking all the data with it. Guess who gets blamed… it ain’t Britney.

So, what’s the right play here? Should I go with the Red Hat dominant market share, the Novell (a newly-indentured servant of Microsoft), some version that no one in my market uses? Should I focus on Germany (one answer), Japan (different answer) or the US?

A long while back (in my SGI days) I came up with a handful of questions we asked groups when they wanted to release somethng into open source. I should dig them up and run them as a blog sometime.

So, what’s the hindsight going to be in 2010?

as always…

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Starting off.

September 28, 2006

Hi and welcome to my personal slice of opinionated facts and fancies.

I’m a strategic technologist. I spend most of my time tryinng to figure out what and when technology makes sense for the real world, and even sometimes, how to make money at the game.

davemc