TECH TALK: Disruptive Technologies: Open Source and Linux (Part III)

Linux is 10 years old. It is the most famous software product
available under Open Source. A couple years ago, as some of the Linux
companies went public in the US, the belief was that Linux would
emerge as a strong contender to Microsoft. That has not exactly
happened as almost all the listed companies have performed
poorly. (That’s does not mean Linux was a bubble – it only means that
companies with flawed business models are bubbles.)

The desktop market still belongs to Microsoft. However, there are
niche segments like animation where Linux has made a significant
market. On the server side, Linux has emerged as a strong competitor
to Windows NT and other flavours of Unix. The two segments which offer
the maximum hope for Linux going ahead are in embedded systems and for
blade servers for cluster computing.

Writes in a recent report on Linux:

Linux hasn’t come close to writing Microsoft Windows’ obituary, but in the 10 years since the operating system was born, it has carved out a growing position where other operating systems have fallen by the wayside or been relegated to niche status.One strength of Linux–and one of the main reasons IBM likes it–is that it can run on many different computer designs. That includes IBM’s four major server lines as well as numerous specialty systems used for “embedded” systems such as handheld computers and network routers.

Linux may not have disrupted the business of existing software
companies dramatically, but its Open Source nature has opened up wide
vistas for software developers. What has been missing on Linux are the
applications. The emergence of the Internet and Web have actually
simplified the applications most people need on their desktops, and
this is the opportunity for Linux.

The six key applications which will suffice for most people are: the
basic OS and file system, productivity applications (Star Office on
Linux is free, compared to a Rs 15,000 cost for MS-Office), a Web
Browser (Netscape on Linux is free, as is Internet Explorer on
MS-Windows), an email client (Netscape Messenger or Linux or the use
of web mail), an Instant Messaging client (the protocols are not
inter-operable yet, so one needs specific clients; Jabber is a good
open source alternative) and Acrobat Reader (which is again free). In
fact, even in the area of the Office suite, most people really need a
text editor, not a full-blown application like MS-Word. In addition, a
Personal Information Management (PIM) software like Outlook is what
many use. Recently, Ximian has released Evolution, a Linux PIM.

Emerging markets is where Linux can be extremely disruptive to
Microsoft. In countries like India and China, Linux is being adopted
as a cheaper alternative. So far, with 90% piracy levels, the cost of
both Linux and MS-Windows/Office was the same – zero. As the new
versions of MS-Windows and Office have stronger anti-piracy measures,
the use of Linux is going to rise. Emerging markets become important
in the context of the global software industry because the developed
countries have reached near-saturation levels of PC penetration and
the upgrade cycles are becoming fewer and longer. Whether it is in the
adoption of PCs or low-cost Internet access devices, Linux will have a
strong role to play in the coming years.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.