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Linux Today Counter-FUD Work Reveals 'World Domination' in Progress

Dec 02, 1999, 05:29 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Wolley)

by John Wolley, Linux Today Silicon Valley correspondent

Linux Counter-FUD Site is Launched
After many months of work, the 'first installment' of Linux Today's Linux Counter-FUD Site is finally being launched. The site's home page tells some of the background of how and why we decided to do this--basically we concluded that the most effective way to counter the FUD about Linux in the mainstream press is by citing the articles in the mainstream press. And it seemed like an obvious function for Linux Today to perform, a way to 'leverage' our growing archive of Linux news stories (the count passed 10k in early September). You can read more about this on the site's home page that's linked above--the exciting story in this announcement has less to do with FUD than it has to do with what we discovered as we worked on getting this site ready.

There's a Bigger Story Here!
As we sifted through the news stories, sorting, categorizing, and summarizing the material that best counters the FUD, we were continually amazed by the 'impact' of the results that we produced--what we were seeing was not just a solid counter to the FUD about Linux, but solid evidence that the Linux march to 'world domination' is actually happening!

The Scale of the Change that Has to Happen for Linux to Supplant Windows
People in the Linux community have been talking about 'world domination' for some time now. The talk was probably started by Torvalds himself, throwing out the phrase in a humorous presentation--as he did in his keynote at the first LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Jose, California, in March of 1999. Just how seriously people take this, in what timeframe, is hard to judge. But the magnitude of the change that would have to happen in order for Linux to supplant Windows is one of those things that leaves a writer groping for words that do it justice--'staggering', 'mindboggling', 'unbelievable' are in the ballpark. Laying out the highlights of Microsoft's market dominance is the only way to really capture it?.

  • A Lock on '90% of Computers on the Planet': Some flavor of Windows runs about 90% of all the computers on the planet. The standard productivity applications for businesses worldwide are Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint--and most large corporations have major investments in customizations that would be expensive to port if they considered switching. Microsoft Outlook powers the email servers and clients for most of those businesses using Microsoft Windows and Office. Windows NT now handles file and print sharing in most of these same businesses. And for most, Microsoft Back Office takes care of much of what remains.
  • Developer Tools: Microsoft 'Visual' developer tools are used in a large proportion of application development, in applications for both resale and for internal use. And the 'tight integration' between all the Microsoft products makes it easy for corporate IT departments to stitch together any and all of the pieces to create large, complex systems with relatively little effort.
  • Applications: The vast majority of application programs that are available are available on Windows. Most application programs are released first on Windows, then ported to other platforms--if they are ported at all. Many internet browser 'plug-ins' are available only in Windows-specific versions.
  • Unix Under Siege: The only areas still holding out against the Microsoft juggernaut are very high end servers and engineering workstations that run Unix--and Microsoft has been promising that NT 5, now renamed Windows 2000, will take away a big chunk of that market.

So even if alternative technology somehow emerges, and is clearly superior to a Microsoft product on all counts, the sheer scale, scope, magnitude--whatever you choose to call it--of the 'sea change' that would have to take place for any alternative to a Microsoft product to present a serious challenge to this market dominance is absolutely 'mindboggling'. Even more so for Linux, when you consider that switching from proprietary software to open source is a much bigger change than just 'switching vendors': open source requires any commercial vendor that wants to make money off of it to make big changes in their business model, and it requires any corporate IT department that adopts it to make big changes in the way they deploy and support software.

But It Is Happening!
But guess what? This sea change to Linux is happening! And it's happening while Linux is not yet clearly superior to Windows on all counts. A sea change of hard-to-believe proportions has been underway since early '99, when the number of commercial vendors announcing support for Linux seemed to literally explode. When the 'Linux bandwagon' first began to roll, the trade press suggested, and many members of the Linux and open source communities feared, that many of the early announcements might turn out to be just 'hype', and much of the promised support would never be delivered. Less than a year later, those fears can be forgotten--a careful examination of the mainstream press paints an extraordinary picture of the sea change that is already well underway.

Yet It Is Easy to Miss
You can watch all the news go by each day and miss it--it's worse than 'not seeing the forest for the trees', it's more like 'not even seeing the trees for all the twigs and branches'. You can review the opinions of major analysts, columnists, and garden variety 'pundits' and you won't see it there. You can do a lot of searching on 'Linux' and 'open source' in online news sources and still not see it.

Our Counter-FUD Searching Dug It Out
If you do a careful series of searches on one very focused topic in the Linux news, like we had to do to compile and summarize the counter-FUD stories--topics like GUIs available for Linux, Linux deployments in business, or what a single vendor like Computer Associates is doing to promote Linux--and browse through the articles published since early '99, then you will realize that what's happening with Linux is huge, at least in that one area--in that one area, you'll see a really big tree growing. Repeat that process on all the topics in the Linux news that you can think of, and then consider all your findings together--only then can you appreciate the magnitude of what's happening--only then does the 'forest' become clearly visible. (Actually, this was much harder than it sounds--there are many topics, like 'Linux deployments in business', that you just can't get at through searches; you have to watch all the news go by, day after day, scanning just about every story and 'harvesting' the links and quotes as you see them.)

Countering FUD Turns into Watching Linux 'World Domination' Unfold
This is what we're doing for you, for the Linux and open source communities, for the mainstream press, for anyone who wants to take the time to read what we've found and check out the original articles whenever you want to dig deeper. We set out to simply counter the Linux FUD that was, and still is, appearing in the trade press. So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, take a look at this forest!--start your tour of Linux Today's Linux Counter-FUD Site.

Note: Hopefully you will start to see the 'forest' in this initial installment of the site. But it will be much easier to see when the entire site is published--watch the Linux Today home page for announcements of subsequent installments. Our plan is to roll out three additional installments, about two weeks apart, which would complete the 'first edition' of the site by mid-January, 2000.

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