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Linux faces up to Microsoft

The software industry in the future will be dominated by two types of software platform - open-source Linux and the proprietary Microsoft Windows platform - said Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation.

Published on November 20, 2007



Even though the Microsoft platform now dominated the software market, Zemlin said the Linux platform would grow to offer a new alternative for software users.

"In the future there will be only two worlds of software - the open and the closed one - and I believe that the open world of Linux will grow rapidly as more and more countries adopt the platform to develop software," Zemlin said.

The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux. As it believes the open-source model will transform software development by providing faster demand-side learning, higher quality, better security, shorter development cycles and lower prices than closed platform development models, it has a mission to promote, protect and standardise Linux by providing the unified resources and services needed for the open-source community to compete with closed platforms.

It's expected there will be around 200 million cellphones embedded with Linux coming to market by 2012, a growth rate of around 75 per cent.

Zemlin said that even though the open-source model would grow faster, it would not replace the closed system. Rather, it would take a greater share in the market. He also predicted that the market shares of the two would eventually become equal.

As the model is to make the source code freely available, software developers can take the code for further development, and this helps applications developed on open-source technology come to market much faster.

Microsoft takes around seven years to release software for desktop computers, but in the open-source community, new desktop software comes out every six months.

The speed of software development and the lower cost of investment will be key factors to drive the growth of open-source software and with these, closed systems in the future may not be able to compete with the open world, Zemlin added.

Linux and open-source software will be a new challenge to increase competitiveness for countries and industries. In the Asian region, the software is used as a new strategic way to assist the local software industry in each country.

Zemlin said as developers could take the source code to build new software products, it would be a new way for many countries to upgrade their software industries to compete with others in the world market.

 "Linux and open source software will be a new beginning to increase competitive advantages for software developers in Asia," he said.

However, for Thai software developers to take part in the open-source community, Zemlin recommended that developers make software which is compatible with other Linux platforms in the world. Standards are also a key factor that they have to take seriously.

"Thai software developers have to focus on their development strengths and then make their open-source software compatible," he added.

To encourage Linux and open-source software, Zemlin admitted that it's necessary to learn from Microsoft's success. Microsoft, according to Zemlin, has successfully promoted its software products to make the Windows platform so strong.

There is also a phenomenon which Zemlin called the network effect, which made Microsoft's software dominant, especially in the desktop market. Zemlin said the strategy was for users to buy a bulk of software from Microsoft as a complete set.

He said it's necessary to learn from this success and harness the network effect to make open-source software a mass product.

Meanwhile, he said Microsoft also had an advantage as it could make software simple for users under a single Windows platform. The open-source community, therefore, should acknowledge a unifying standard so that all open-source software would be compatible and work together smoothly.

The government, according to Zemlin, will also be a key to encourage open-source software and make it cheaper and licence-free. They can act as a model for the use of open-source software and Zemlin said the government's procurement policy could increase the emergence of open-source software in each country.

Pongpen Sutharoj

 The Nation


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