Stop the Presses: A Tale of Two Bazaars: the Marketplace and the Kernel List

At Linux WorldExpo in August 1999, I met with some IBM folks who conveyed the company's cautious interest in the operating system. Linux had been arriving “over the transom”, they said, showing up significantly (though nonstrategically) in servers all over the company. So IBM did a survey of one division, testing Linux “awareness” on a scale that ran from “can spell Linux” at one end and “hacks kernel code” at the other. All 600 surveyed could spell Linux, and 120 were hacking kernel code. It was a revelation that no doubt informed the company's strategic commitment to the OS.

Now it's 2.5 years later, and Linux is a mainstream operating system. That was the summary news story from the latest LinuxWorld Expo (just completed as I write this).

IBM showed off marquee customers L.L. Bean, Boscov, Pixar and Solomon Smith Barney. Hewlett-Packard showcased DreamWorks SKG. Egenera reported a deal with Credit Suisse First Boston.

In her keynote at LWE, Carly Fiorina of HP said 2002 would be a “breakout” year for Linux, pointing to a Gartner projection of 15% growth, despite the economic downturn. HP also announced Linux products for enterprise and telecommunications customers, showcasing Amazon, BMW, Boeing, Speedera, ViaWest and Verizon.

Also at LWE, Holger Dyroff of SuSE said, “Up to now Linux was adopted by technicians. Now it's exactly the opposite.” CIOs are placing orders for SuSE support contracts on IBM mainframes at a rate of 2-3 purchase orders per week and $4,500-$11,500 per contract. About one-third of the customers for the mainframe distribution, which has been out for about a year and a half, are banks, Dyroff said.

IBM also introduced a special bargain price on a “Linux-only” version of its flagship zSeries (better known as S/390) mainframe.

In fact, IBM, which famously bragged about spending one billion dollars on Linux over the last year, now says it has recouped most of the investment. And it's hardly alone in its bottom-line enthusiansms for the operating system.

And the story goes way beyond what we saw at LWE.

Egenera is selling Linux-based servers ranging in price from $200,000 to more than one million dollars.

Amazon.com recently moved its services to Linux and credits the OS with enormous savings, no doubt contributing to that company's first profitable quarter.

Mary Anne De Young of 1mage (“One Image”) attributes the company's recent successes to a tremendous growth in demand for Linux as a UNIX product platform. One of 1mage's largest customers, Reynolds & Reynolds, is both making and saving money by shipping its (and 1mage's) products out to thousands of car dealers on Linux boxes.

John Gantz of International Data Corp. had enthusiastic words about Linux in his Top Ten Predictions for the New Year.

And if none of that makes a convincing case for the long-term commercial success of Linux, there's this from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer:

I think you have to rate competitors that threaten your core higher than you rate competitors where you're trying to take from them....It puts the Linux phenomenon and the UNIX phenomenon at the top of the list. I'd put the Linux phenomenon really as threat No. 1.

—Doc Searls

They Said It

Consider your newspaper. The advertisements are the land. The stories are the Dead Sea, slowly evaporating. Beneath the surface, the advertisements form an unbroken continental shelf. Here and there a ridge of PR crops through the shallow surface. Soon salt and sand will blow across a desert.

—Wealth Bondage

Listen attentively, and above all, remember that true tales are meant to be transmitted. To keep them to oneself is to betray them.

—Elie Wiesel

The motivation for this counterrevolution is as old as revolutions themselves. As Niccolò Machiavelli described long before the Internet, “Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new.” And so it is today with us. Those who prospered under the old regime are threatened by the Internet. Those who would prosper under the new regime have not risen to defend it against the old; whether they will is still a question. So far, it appears they will not.

—Lawrence Lessig

Our terrorists wear suits and have law degrees. Their involvement in software design, at a very intimate level, will result in orphaned software, bankruptcies and users without tools to use. Movement stops—who knows how a creative lawyer will be able to maneuver a broad patent to cover something truly new and innovative. Sometimes the innovation is in cooperation.

—Dave Winer

We were born naked, wet and hungry. Then things got worse.

—Simon Fraser

There isn't much value in free.

—Doug Miller, group product manager for competitive strategies at Microsoft

The reason that we have not seen a real Linux virus epidemic in the wild is simply that none of the existing Linux viruses can thrive in the hostile environment that Linux provides. The Linux viruses that exist today are nothing more than technical curiosities; the reality is that there is no viable Linux virus.

—Ray Yeargin

A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt. The “taken for granted” is the test of sanity; “what everyone knows” is the line between us and them.

—Lawrence Lessig

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

—Steven Wright

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe.

—Abraham Lincoln

Beware of methodologies. They are a great way to bring everyone up to a dismal, but passable, level of performance, but at the same time, they are aggravating to more talented people who chafe at the restrictions that are placed on them.

—Joel Spolksy

Never threaten a writer....We can immortalize you in ways you might not find pleasant.

—Garrison Keillor