Good old Mad Penguin has gotten onto Digg and Slashdot recently with its prediction of the coming divide in the Linux community, due to the recent Microsoft partnerships with Novell SUSE Linux, Xandross, and Freespire. Rather alarmist of them, I’d say. The simple fact is, less has changed with the Microsoft deals than meets the eye.
In the first place, we have already seen Red Hat, IBM, Mandriva, and Novell SUSE do business in the Linux market for quite some time. There’s been the usual scuffles in the Linux camp over it, but nothing that has proven to be a huge fracture.
The GPL license states, plain as day, that anybody can sell GNU/Linux. You can; I can. You have to bring something heavier to the table than just remastering a few tarballs, if you expect to do business, but just offer some customer support and you’re in! So, come to that, we could even see a Microsoft Linux distro.
Wouldn’t that be an alarming picture? But hey, it’s all GPLed software! If Microsoft decided to, they could just dive in and grab the packages from the public server repositories, slap their branding on it, and start selling it tomorrow – after all, that’s nearly all Red Hat does. Do some of their own coding with it, too. In fact, you could see the partnership deals as a practice test run for doing this.
This would change Microsoft more than it would affect Linux. Imagine, Microsoft, the open-source Linux distributor! They’d still make money at it – even if it’s a small amount. After all, they lose money on projects like the XBox. To a large part of Redmond’s customer base, as long as it had the Microsoft logo on it they’d buy it anyway, even if it was available for free from a competitor in source form.
Because what’s source code to the average computer user? Incomprehensible gibberish, that’s what! Most users still just want what works, anyway, regardless of how it happens. They don’t even want to install anything. If the software business model has shown anything, it’s that price has about zero effect on customer purchase decisions.
Linux has already been dealing with commercial competition since the day it was started. So far, both free software and proprietary software are still here. Either side can wring their hands over the other, but what we have here is a dual market.
So, what about it, Linux geeks? Are you fighting mad over these events? If so, what can you do about it? And if Microsoft just produces their own Linux distro, would there be a market for it? What could you do about that?
- Has Microsoft Gone Linux-Crazy?
- Linux Distros That Could Take The Lead Soon
- Why Does Linux Need Marketing?
- Understanding the SCO Court Circus – Send in More Clowns!
- Other People With An Axe To Grind Against Linux