10 Reasons Why the Linux Community Could Influence iPhone Sales

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-02-08 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Linux creator Linus Torvalds has publicly stated that he has purchased and likes Google's Nexus One smartphone. It's no small endorsement. With Torvalds' support comes a full Linux community that is ready and willing to take on the iPhone.

Although the combined market share of Linux distributions pales in comparison with Windows or Mac OS X, the Linux community is strong, engaged and, perhaps most importantly, loyal. Part of that is due to the community's strong feelings against closed software, especially products sold by Microsoft. It's also due to Linux's creator, Linus Torvalds, who still commands a massive amount of respect and admiration sometimes bordering on adoration.

Over the weekend, Torvalds wrote on a personal blog that although he can't stand mobile phones, he was pleasantly surprised by Google's Nexus One smartphone. Torvalds called the device a "winner" and said he's happy with its design. And since the phone runs a version of Linux, he was even more willing to pick it up.

The importance of Torvalds' endorsement of the Nexus One can't be understated. In many ways, the Linux community follows his lead. When he offers an opinion, the community rallies behind him. The Nexus One will be no different. And considering that the Nexus One competes against Apple's iPhone, Torvalds' endorsement could have a more profound impact on iPhone sales than we might expect.

Let's take a look at why Torvalds and the Linux community could affect iPhone sales, while helping Google's Android platform.

1. Open source means everything

To the Linux community, open-source software means everything. Linux fans believe that the finest software can only be improved with the help of users around the globe. They fundamentally disagree with the belief that a handful of developers can produce a proprietary software application that is superior to an open-source alternative. In the open-source community's view, the Nexus One and Google's Android platform provide open alternatives to the iPhone, making Apple's device less capable and thus less desirable.

2. Torvalds' opinion matters

Torvalds is still highly regarded in the Linux community. When he speaks, those who subscribe to his beliefs on open-source software and the viability of open operating systems listen. He has come out in support of the Nexus One in part because it runs Linux. That might be enough for the huge Linux community to get behind Google and decide against buying iPhones.

3. The Linux community is faithful

Although there are several distributions that pit one part of the Linux community against another, in the mobile space, those folks don't need to choose. The iPhone is a closed device. Only Google's Android platform can adequately supply the Linux community with the key element they desire. The Linux community knows that. And it likely will affect how Linux proponents choose smartphones.

4. There are more than you think

After examining OS market-share figures, many believe that Linux followers are few and far between and they don't necessarily matter to a company's bottom line. It's a faulty conclusion. The Linux community is huge. Millions of people around the globe support open-source software and all that Linux stands for. They rebel against closed software. Apple's iPhone is included in that grouping. And unless Apple decides to make the iPhone OS open source, it will stay in that unfavorable category. 

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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