eWEEK at 30: Linux Makes Open Source a Software Industry Force

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2013-12-31 Print this article Print

From 1995 onwards, Red Hat became a force to be reckoned with in the commercial Linux world, culminating in the company's massive initial public offering on Aug. 11, 1999 when share value tripled in a single day, going from $14 to just over $52.

Support from some of the world's largest IT companies helped keep Linux and Red Hat on the road to commercial success. In July of 1998, Oracle announced that it would be porting its namesake database to Linux, which proved to be a strong vote of confidence in the open-source operating system.

IBM's contribution to the development of Linux in the 1990s also cannot be overstated. IBM established its Linux Technology Center in 1999 and, in 2000, it cast a huge vote of confidence in the operating system when it announced a $1 billion investment in Linux research and development that served as an essential foundation for the growth of Linux over the next decade.

In 2000, Daniel Frye, director of IBM's Linux Technology Center in an exclusive interview with eWEEK said that, "Linux was becoming a 'highly disruptive force' that will do for applications what the Internet had done for networks—become a common, open, pervasive platform that created an explosion of innovation in e-business applications."

Three years later, in 2003, eWEEK reported that IBM disclosed that it had generated a cumulative $1 billion in revenue from Linux.

In 2002, Linux Torvalds published his own autobiography which solicited an interesting observation from eWEEK's Spencer Katt editorial cartoon.

"El Gato winced when he heard HarperCollins was publishing a celebrity's autobiography titled "Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary.""

Spencer was willing to bet that "it's the inspiring story of how Lil Britney Spears left Kentwood, La., to become a teen music phenomenon." Imagine the Katt's chagrin when a pal informed him it was the title for a tome chronicling the life of fun-loving Finnish Linux inventor Linus Torvalds.

In hindsight, Torvalds' 2002 autobiography only chronicled the beginning of the Linux story. In the years since, Linux market share has grown and the technology has continued to evolve at a rapid pace with an increasing volume of companies and developers collaborating on the effort. Torvald's 1992 decision to license Linux under GPL continued to be a driving force in 2013. The "Who Writes Linux 2013" report found that more than 10,000 developers from 1,000 companies have contributed to Linux since 2005.

Linux in 2013 powers the vast majority of the world's supercomputers; It's the foundation for a large proportion of the world's mobile smartphones, powers the world's stock exchanges and is an integral part of the core infrastructure that enables the Internet.

After more than 20 years of existence, Linux continues to evolve with its founder Linus Torvalds still at the helm. At the LinuxWorld USA 2013 conference in New Orleans, Torvalds recounted that he started off as a developer because of a necessity. His friends were playing games on their computers that he couldn't afford, so he had to learn to program.

Even after all this time, Torvalds says he has yet to get bored with Linux, which remains at the core of what he plans to do with his life for the foreseeable future.

"I don't see any project coming along being more interesting to me than Linux," Torvalds said. "I couldn't imagine filling the void in my life if I didn't have Linux."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


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