2011 will mark the 20th year of Linux and close to the 40th anniversary of Unix
The Unix/Linux Family Tree
so its worthwhile noting the family tree and who is who among the operating system players of note in their use of Unix/Linux.
Apple MacOS = has strong Unix/Linux heritage through NextStep and Andrew
HPUX – is one of the basic Bell Lab Unix derivatives used by Hewlett Packard servers
AIX – also is one of the basic Bell Lab Unix derivatives used by IBM servers
Solaris – flows like MacOS from the BSD line of Unix servers for Oracle/Sun
Xenix – is an example of Bill Gates hedging his bets and getting OS design info
Google – is the only major OS player missing from this chart but there is no doubt Google as a major Linux user with its search servers based on a somewhat clumsy Linux maintenance operation [which has exposed Google to hack attacks] and its internal desktop machines using an Ubuntu Linux derivative called Goobuntu. And both Chrome and Android are Linux based. In fact, one could argue that the best chance for Linux making a breakthrough on the desktop and into the mobile world is Google. Yes, the traditional Linux shops are perceived as Whimps but not Google. So watch for Google to appear on this chart in the near future.
Client Side Dysfunction
Despite the presence of at least 4 free and well rated Linux distributions and the travesty that was Vista, Unix/Linux on the desktop has been a mixed blessing at best as seen in this market share chart:
Linux, in all its various incarnations has barely manged in 20 years to get a market share presence that iPhone has achieved in two years. There are some theories on why this has occured and here are some of the most interesting over the years:
Computerworld – Five ways the Linux desktop shoots itself in the foot
Infoworld – Desktop Linux: Why it may have lost its chance …
MovingParts – Why Isn’t Desktop Linux “There” Yet?
This party is not throwing in the towel on the Linux desktop until a)Android has had a chance to show its mettle on mobiles and Netbooks and b) Google Chrome comes out in the second half of 2010. I suspect Chrome’s implementation with its Solid State Disk Drive and Web orientation will be disruptive enough to win a much bigger chunk of the market share pie for Linux/Unix on the ever more mobile “desktop”.
Server Side Fortunes
In contrast to Linux/Unix on the desktop, on the server Linux/Unix have done very well. The argument is that for large scale servers, the decision on what gets used has to pass some security, reliability, and performance tests that Microsoft has been late to meet. Also the availability of a free LAMP-Linux Apache MySQL PHP stack has made Linux very very popular among Web hosting services and shops. Evidence bears that out:
Feb 2010 data from NetCraft
But as you can see there have been wild generations in recent years in the Web usage numbers among the major players. What is uncertain is how Cloud Computing with major players like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others will again skew this distribution. But with the CIOs at major organizations trying to break the 80-20 Perverse Rule – 80% of their budget get absorbed in keeping their existing systems running while only 20% can be spent on new technology initiatives just when those are creating huge waves and new market opportunities – there is an impulse to lower costs Cloud Computing and Open Source. Also Unix/Linux brings not only lower costs but also the other CIO great desire – Open, Silo-breaking Interoperability. Finally, with a huge data deluge pouring down on organizations, the Unix/Linux performance advantage over Microsoft Server will carry more weight.
In sum, look for Linux/Unix in its various manifestations to emerge as a major player everywhere – in the mobile desktop, on more embedded computers [slow uptick but RTOS and Windows lead], in/on the Web and Cloud Computing, and in the coldrooms of “mainframe”/large-server computing. Will the Penguin-tortoise finally emerge as a major winner in it anniversary years? Microsoft will certainly have a lot to say about this with a major rewrite of Windows CE/Mobile, its new Azure Windows Web Server, and the relentless billion dollar campaign to regain mindshare in the desktop space with Windows 7. But clearly the Windows Hare is looking at the UNIX/Linux Tortoise with much greater trepidation.