Welcome to GandhiCon 4

by Doc Searls

Perhaps we'll remember March 18, 2003, as E-Day. That was the day when Evans Data Corp. delivered hard numbers to substantiate what most of us already sensed in our bones: Linux was now clearly on its way to becoming the majority target platform for enterprise software development.

First came the company's release to the press. "DEVELOPERS MIGRATING FROM WINDOWS TO LINUX", its headline said, adding "52% of Developers Now Targeting Linux Used to Develop for Windows". Linux, the survey said, is pulling developers away from Windows more than it pulls from various forms of UNIX:

Fifty-two percent of respondents who currently have Linux as their target for applications say they used to write applications primarily for one of the versions of Windows. Only 30% have switched from some form of UNIX to Linux as their primary target.

Computerwire put the news in perspective, dismissing conventional Microsoft FUD:

A new survey from Evans Data Corp. appears to contradict suggestions from Microsoft Corp. that the growth of the Linux operating system has been at the expense of UNIX, rather than its own Windows operating system.

In other words, okay, we'll see your FUD and raise you a few FACTS. I immediately wrote and asked Evans Data to share a few more of those facts with us, which they kindly provided. Here are some of the target platform results:

Unsurprisingly, Windows OSes are the most common, accounting for 81% of developers' primary host environments...Linux, too, has become a contender in the most-used development OS comparison; 8% of respondents use Linux as their primary development OS, which is more than all the other flavors of UNIX combined (5.4%).

For secondary target host environments today, 32% of respondents named UNIX, and about half of those (15.5% of the total) named Linux.

For next year's plans, Evans Data said, "Linux use will increase, too; 8% use it now, but 14% expect to use the open-source OS as primary host next year. (That 6% increase is suspiciously similar to the 6% decrease in Windows use.)"

Among development platforms, however, Linux already kicks butt. Here's Evans Data:

Linux is the primary choice of host platform at 40%. Windows 2000 makes a strong showing at 29%, with Windows XP right behind at 12%. The landscape is about to change, however, as you will see below...

Next year respondents plan to increase their use of Linux as the primary development platform by 15%, from 40% to 55%. They also plan to increase their use of Windows XP as a development platform by 8%, going from 12% this year to 20% next year. Both Linux and Windows XP are taking at least some of their share from Windows 2000, since it drops 15% from 30% this year to 15% for the next. Other flavors of UNIX comprise an insignificant share of the host development platform this and next year, so Linux is obviously taking more share from Windows than any other OS.

It gets better when we look at development platforms:

The choice of OS for a development platform does not necessarily dictate the choice of OS on which to run the finished application. In this case, however, Linux tops the chart on both the development platform choice and target platform choice. Forty-percent of respondents said they most often target Linux for the OS on which their applications will run compared to 43% for all versions of Windows combined. Windows 2000 is the primary target for 23% of respondents. This distribution implies the bulk of applications are likely to be server-oriented, especially since the most often used client OS, Windows 95/98, is the primary target for only 8% of developers. Windows XP is the primary focus for 8%, as well.

And what about next year? Get ready to rock:

When it comes to the primary focus for the target platform for applications, the trend for next year follows the same trend for what respondents are going to use for their development platform. Linux gets the largest increase, going from 40% to 53%. The combination of all Windows versions drops from 43% to 33%. Windows 2000 loses the most attention, going from 23% to 13%. Windows XP picks up more focus, going from 8% this year to 17% next year. The rest of the categories continue to get an insignificant amount of attention.

Yesterday at PC Forum in Arizona, I talked with Avery Lyford, President and CEO of Linuxcare, which is one of the companies working to satisfy the demand outlined above. Avery is also an IBM veteran who knows the enterprise space extremely well, especially where Linux is involved. "It's done", he said. "Linux is a lock. The only remaining resistance is around open-source development, and that's only because a lot of IT people still don't understand it. But that will change soon, too. Count on it."

Right before I talked to Avery, an IT guy at a Fortune 50 company pulled me aside to talk about the rapid movement toward widespread Linux deployment at his firm. All he needed to finish making it happen, he said, was a few hard numbers. "Do you know any?" he said. I told him to watch his e-mail. This morning I sent him the numbers I just shared with the rest of you.

A few weeks back I asked Eric Raymond if he thought we had reached the final stage outlined by Mohandas Gandhi's famous quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

He replied, "Still GandhiCon 3 (they fight you), I think, though late in that stage."

I believe these Evans Data results may have brought us to the verge of GhandhiCon 4.

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal.

email: doc@ssc.com

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