Google Cultivates Open-Source Fans

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

5. The Linux community is growing

The Linux community is growing relatively rapidly. Recent market-share figures reveal that more people are adopting Linux. In other software markets, open-source offerings are growing at an astounding rate to the detriment of closed software. Unlike Apple, Google realized that and opted for an open operating system. Apple and its iPhone might be battling an enduring trend. That can't be good for iPhone sales.

6. They're usually the advisers

For the most part, the Linux community is composed of people who fully understand and follow the tech industry. Because of that, they're typically called upon by others for advice on buying tech products. If a Linux user rails against the iPhone, some might opt for a Nexus One or another Android-based device. Linux users know what they're talking about and share their knowledge. That word of mouth could be to the detriment of Apple's iPhone.

7. Torvalds can effect change

Torvalds is more of a figurehead today than the true decider of Linux's fate. But as the figurehead, he can rally the Linux community unlike any other open-source supporter. He has been a key reason why Microsoft has been forced to deal with open-source software so often in the past. He's also why some open-source products became popular. By getting the Linux community behind Google's Nexus One, Torvalds might push a sizable customer base away from the iPhone.

8. Google cultivates the relationship

Unlike Apple, Google realizes the power and influence Torvalds and the Linux community really have. Whether or not Google truly believes in open standards is up for debate. But the company was smart enough to realize that if it can get a rabid community behind it, it might be able to more efficiently improve its operating system, while capitalizing on Linux's immense influence. It was a smart move on Google's part. And for its efforts, Google might be able to convince some to turn away from the iPhone and opt for Android instead.

9. The community gets even

The Linux community doesn't simply support an open-source project and do nothing. Instead, it gets behind that project and does everything it can to see it succeed. In some cases, that means improving the software. In other cases, it means railing against the competition, highlighting the competition's flaws and bringing about change through activism. Microsoft has learned that lesson the hard way. Will Apple and its iPhone learn the same lesson?

10. Changes aren't coming

As innovative as Apple might be, it simply doesn't believe in offering open-source software. That's understandable. Steve Jobs is running a company that has generated record profits over the past few years due in large part to its closed software. But as the industry and the users turn more to open-source software, how much longer can Apple hold out before that policy starts impacting sales?

Torvalds' support might be a first step in that direction. If the Linux community gets behind him, Apple might feel the effect millions of Linux users can have on a bottom line.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, 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

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