Why Broadcom's Release May be More Significant than Just Code
On September 9 the news of Broadcom's release of the code for some of its wireless Ethernet chip sets sent shockwaves throughout the Linux community. Broadcom owners, as well as distribution developers have a reason to celebrate.
In the past, Broadcom owners had to resort to NDISwrapper or rely upon the limited reversed engineered drivers. Neither was optimal. The release of the code by Broadcom should eventually mean a much better Wi-Fi experience for owners of systems with Broadcom chip sets. But for those that like to read between the lines there may also be a deeper significance to this move.
There are two trains of thought as to the "deeper" significance in this surprising move. Some say Linux installs / computers still make up only 1% of total computers in use. Others believe it's much higher. One well-respected writer believes it is probably about 10% while another estimates it is closer to 14%. So some see the Broadcom move as proof that the higher figures are the accurate figures. The thinking being that Broadcom wouldn't worry about a mere 1% share of the market but would be concerned about a double digit market share.
The second theory, while similar in nature, is that the move is due to the growing number of large industrial and commercial Wi-Fi hot-spot networks. Many of these are relying on Linux due to its security and reliability. Again the thinking is that this is a large enough market that Broadcom does not want to lose it to a competitor that has better native Linux support, such as Intel.
Whether it's due to pressure from users, loss of sales, or just a change in attitude, it's good news for Linux and that's all that matters. Most Linux users probably don't care why, they're just happy it happened - even if it does still leave many with older chips that still may need to rely upon b43 or NDISwrapper.