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VNU Net: Linux break up 'inevitable'

Apr 05, 2000, 20:24 (34 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Nick Farrell)

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By Nick Farrell, VNU Net

Linux is in danger of breaking up into competing and incompatible variations, according to analysts.

Bill Eppifanio, a spokesman at Wall Street analyst JP Morgan, said last week that such a break up is "inevitable" given the coalition of voluntary efforts that keeps Linux distributions updated.

"Anytime you have open source code you're going to get forking, and it will be just as bad for Linux as it was for Unix," he said.

The main problem for Linux is that programmers can do what they like with the code because the operating system is open source, said Eppifanio. As a result, it is inevitable that there will be versions that are incompatible with others, he added.

Judith Hurwitz, president of Wall Street analyst the Hurwitz Group, said Linux is being touted as a replacement for Unix, which suffered similar problems.

"If Unix had not fragmented and made it difficult for an application to run on more than one version of the operating system, Microsoft would never have had the wide-open field it did to achieve a monopoly," she said.

Rob Hailstone, research director at Bloor Research, said there are a few different directions in which Linux is going, and that in some respects it is already fragmented.

"It is possible that we could get contra-products, and I hope that does not happen. However, I think that most of those developments will get hoovered back into the main product."

He said that when Unix developed differently, there was never the slightest incentive to keep the code compatible and it was in software vendors' interests to change the product and get a competitive advantage.

With Linux, developers are contractually obliged to make the system open source, and code changes have to go back to the public domain. It would be difficult for anyone to hijack Linux into a totally separate product for their own uses, said Hailstone.

He said the different "flavours" would be minor and specialised, and could be flagged by warnings on the box.

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