At the Linux Foundation's annual collaboration summit in San Francisco on Wednesday, Executive Director Jim Zemlin kicked off the event with some interesting perspectives on the state of the Linux marketplace today.
The short version: Linux is going strong and getting stronger.
According to Zemlin, the macro-economic trends have played to the strengths of Linux and open source. Few can dispute that Linux is cheaper to procure and run in comparison to proprietary platforms. This applies not only to end users but also to device manufacturers and development shops building platforms.
Would Google be the company it is today using proprietary technologies like Microsoft.NET? The answer is likely not. Service providers in any form (aka cloud providers) need to maintain control over their platform and only Linux and open source allow for that control.
Because there are new devices in the market and the nature of client computing is changing in the industry, Linux is much more attractive--especially for the mobile Internet. Again, it comes back to control. By using Linux, device makers have much more control over their applications, services and economics.
If you have your own software, you can take advantage of the economics in more interesting ways--e-book readers, smartphones, etc. can take advantage of the new economic reality.
Zemlin argues that the new PC economics look much more like the cell phone industry than it does the PC value chain. One example of this is Apple's 30 percent take of the gross revenue of App Store apps. The new model takes the value off the platform itself and instead moves it to the applications.
The other big shift for Linux is the evolution of service providers as they start to offer additional and more compelling services on-demand.
Zemlin predicts that in the next two to five years hardware will become free. People won't buy software and they won't buy hardware, they'll pay for services like Amazon Web Services. This won't be bad for hardware providers who will sell to a different constituency as service providers will offer more and more services online.
Overall, the Linux ecosystem has grown well beyond what most people would have expected over the past 10 years. And from what I've heard and seen at the Linux Collaboration Summit so far, the shift to Linux and open source has really just begun.