What are the learnings from Linux, and what is its future? Writes Innosight’s “Disruption Innowire”:
What do people generally do with interesting new technologies? The impulse of most is to attempt to plug that new technology into an existing market. As we have seen in the case of Linux in the PC market, this can lead to serious errors. Disruptive technologies are almost never plug compatible when an innovator attempts to insert them into an existing system of use. Infrastructure issues usually render the building of a successful business based on the new technology impossible. In the case of Linux, a supporting infrastructure was present in the workstation market, but not in the PC market. One reason why growth businesses gravitate to entirely new applications is that there are fewer entrenched infrastructural factors that favor the status quo.
Linux’s future seems brightest when it does not try to compete in applications already dominated by Microsoft, and in those markets that it can potentially disrupt. For example, Linux seems to be finding a home as the embedded operating system of choice for intelligent appliances, handheld devices and smart cellular telephones. The very low end of the market, including phones, personal digital assistants, hard disk drives, smart cards and printers, may be where Linux finds future success.
It seems that Linux is becoming a modular entity. The technology enables a larger population of engineers to reshape operating systems any way they wish, in order to drive Web-based appliances and other products for which Windows is simply too expensive. This kind of flexibility and affordability never was a feature of Windows products. In this way, Linux is a product that, like all disruptive technologies, enables more people to do more things more easily than they could with the incumbent product.
I’d like to add some personal thoughts on Open Source and Linux. Samachar.com and the other sites in the IndiaWorld family were all built on open source software components, enabling us to keep the start-up costs very low. Linux and Apache were (and continue to be) the two primary building blocks. Rather than invest in expensive packaged software which would have resulted in very high upfront costs, we used a lot of software from the public domain, and modified some parts to suit our needs.
The other development in software which is potentially disruptive is the emergence of Application Service Providers and their making software a service. This, combined with the creation of computing grids, is creating a technology utility, which will dramatically change the way of think of computers and software.