going global in a big way and entering the mainstream of computing. Indian
companies however seem to be slightly behind the curve, in particular when
it comes to adopting and developing new products on Linux, observes
trends are more fickle than snowflakes during late fall, and equally
unpredictable. However, one software trend—the move towards open source
Linux-based systems, seems to be steadily inching forward. While it may be
too early to buy into the argument that Linux is out to eat Microsoft’s
lunch, Linux-based systems are definitely entering the mainstream of
computing. One sign of this: At a recent Tokyo trade show IBM announced the
sale of more than 75 Linux-based computer systems to a number of American
government agencies, including the Air Force, the US Defence Department,
Agriculture and Energy departments and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Users like the US Defence Department do not buy into any technology, fad or
hype easily—a testament to Linux’s entering the mainstream of computing?
Interestingly, Linux systems are not just restricted to the American market.
They seem to be going global in a big way. Linux systems are helping
Germany’s parliament, China’s post-offices, France’s culture, defence and
education ministries, and other governmental agencies, in Europe and Asia.
An open source version of Linux called Yangfan Linux is being pieced
together by the Beijing Software Industry Productivity Centre, a group
established by the government to organise Linux development in China.
Yangfan has already been installed on 2,800 government computers, replacing
Windows and early versions of Linux installed earlier. Some of the major
achievements of Yangfan group include developing a graphical user interface
that aims to simplify Linux for the desktop. The team also aims to develop
an entire desktop environment with open source technology for the
government, including an MS Office like productivity suite of applications.
basic version Linux is free (although versions of Linux software provided by
different vendors have a cost associated with them), and highly scalable, it
is especially attractive to small and midsize businesses that are extremely
cost conscious. Even large businesses and governments find its scalability
and flexibility really attractive. Large software vendors, including IBM,
are really pushing the use of Linux in a big way. IBM claims: “Linux is a
revolutionary Open Source platform that is stable, secure, scalable and
powerful, offering today’s businesses the flexibility to innovate for
success. IBM is proud to work within this community, to nurture Linux and
help it thrive.” Given this kind of push by IBM, HP, Dell, Sun, and other
software vendors, it is surprising to see Microsoft going about its
business, seemingly oblivious to the growth of Linux. Of course, Bill Gates
is pushing his vision of .NET as the next big general-use software platform
since Windows. Microsoft is also trying to press on its hold on small
businesses by aggressively marketing its new business software acquisition:
Kernel, in its basic form is free, copyrighted and publicly provided by
Linus B Torvalds under the terms of a General Public License (GPL), which
states that the source code must be freely distributed. Anyone is allowed to
make copies for their own use, to sell or give to other people (with very
few restrictions). While most Linux software is available under GPL, not all
software developed or ported to Linux is free. Many individuals and
companies sell commercial software built on or with Linux. This makes for a
really interesting environment where open systems co-exist with commercial
interest. A parallel can be drawn between this and the early development of
Internet browsers (by the likes of Netscape) that gave them away free of
If Linux goes
global, can Indians be far behind? A cursory search on the Web revealed a
wealth of information on Linux developers and user groups in India. However,
Indian corporations seem to be slightly behind the curve, especially when it
comes to adopting and developing new products on Linux. Even though a few
Indian companies like Tally have recently released versions of their
packages for Linux, we still have ways to go. A widespread use of Linux can
help Indians in several ways:
* Linux is an
open software with source code readily available, hence it has a lot of
scope for innovation and development.
* No hefty
license fee to be paid to large multinationals. This is especially
attractive for a country like India.
* With the
widespread use of freeware, software piracy in India can be rooted out,
bringing a “cleaner” image to micro-software (pun intended) development.
Microsoft is pouring billions of dollars into R&D, hoping to emerge as a
stronger player when the economic cloud lifts, Indian software developers
too can ride the Linux bandwagon by developing systems that (may) have a
global market .... Any takers?