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A Christmas present from IDC. The latest IDC report, as covered in this News.com article, claims that Linux market share rose 212% in 1998. The number of shipped units (i.e. copies that people actually bought) more than tripled. That comes down to a 17% market share for Linux, and a growth rate that exceeds that of any other operating system on the market. To say that this has been an outstanding year for Linux is to understate things badly. To say that we have just begun is simply the truth.

At the risk of taking too cheap a shot, a quote from the News.com article begs for attention: "Perversely, some of NT's growth is attributable to its weakness in handling multiple tasks. Because it doesn't 'multitask' well, customers are buying multiple copies of NT and spreading functions over separate, discrete servers." There's more good stuff in the article; highly recommended reading. (Thanks to Felix Finch for the pointer to this article).

Bittersweet victories. Consider the following quote from this Network World Fusion article (registration required):

To make his case, Andreessen points to the fact that Linux is the fastest-growing non-Microsoft platform in the industry today. He added that over the next five years other Unix vendors will eventually realize that given their volume shipments they will not have enough money in their cost structures to continue to pay for the development of their own proprietary versions of Unix. According to Andreessen, many like that the Unix vendors will eventually converge on the Intel-chip architecture and will ultimately converge on Linux. "Linux will be the last version of Unix standing," he said.
Mr. Andreessen is just restating a view that a number of us have had for some time: Linux will eventually drive most, if not all, of the proprietary Unix systems out of business. The evidence suggests that this process may be further advanced than some of us may have thought. Signs in that direction include:
  • Most of the hardware vendors with proprietary Unix systems have long since made their deals with Microsoft to run NT on their hardware. Sun is just about the only holdout from this group.

  • The hardware vendors are looking ever harder at Linux. IBM continues to cautiously feel its way into the free software world. SGI has joined Linux International. There are persistent rumors that HP is doing a PA-Risc port. If you believe this TechWeb article, Apple is about to start selling Linux-installed Macs. And, of course, Sun is now actively supporting the development of UltraLinux.

    For an insight into Sun's move, it's worth a look at this ZDNet UK article which claims that Sun's move was a result of their losing an increasing number of sales to Linux/Alpha systems.

  • Other proprietary Unix vendors are getting nervous. Consider this press release from BSDI. Their new product is interesting enough: it's the "Linux Application Platform," an add-on module which allows BSDI to run Linux applications. Their way of selling it: "LAP addresses the biggest barrier to widespread industry adoption of Linux applications -- the lack of a reliable, commercially supported operating system to run them on." One has to wonder just what they think Linux applications run on now.
Thus we see two possible responses to the increasing acceptance of Linux. Hardware vendors may well just embrace another operating system - such as Linux or (alas) NT - if theirs is no longer profitable. Software vendors, instead, may well go into an attack mode. The result may well be a new source of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) from a camp that had previously been thought of as being friendly.

This situation is a bit sad, in a way. Most of us who have been around for a while came to Linux by way of one or more proprietary Unix systems. We watched Sun and the others push aside the VMS's and VM/370's of the world and bring about widespread adoption of Unix. These Unix systems were a good thing.

The fate of proprietary Unix would likely be little different if there were no Linux on the scene. But, as it is, Linux looks to be the agent that pushes them off the stage. At least they are being displaced by something better: a completely free operating system.

According to this TechWeb article, Apple will start shipping Power Macintoshes with Linux installed. If true, this would be a major step for a company which has generally seen its operating system as its major stock in trade. (Thanks to Con Zymaris for the pointer).

Who is the rightful owner of linuxbiz.com? A number of eyebrows were raised when Ziff-Davis registered this domain recently. But non, perhaps, went up higher than those of Leif Erlingsson, maintainer of the linux-biz mailing list. Leif has sent a note to Ziff-Davis asking them to recognize his claim to the domain, and to not use it without his permission. So far no response from Ziff-Davis has been made public.

Word Perfect 8 should be available for download by the time you read this article; the scheduled release date is Thursday, December 17. See Corel's announcement for download instructions.

Correction: Last week we reported on an Alpha-based cluster being sold in Japan. The news article we had found indicated that the cluster would be running Linux; in fact, it will be running Digital Unix (proprietary Unix isn't dead yet). Nikkei Net ran a correction of their own on this subject.

December 17, 1998


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