Linux- Gaining Ground



Themes: Innovation
Period : 1990-2003
Organization : IBM - Linux Technology Center, Microsoft
Pub Date : 2003
Countries : ---
Industry : Software

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Case Code : BSTR042
Case Length : 17 Pages
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Linux- Gaining Ground | Case Study

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Shaking Windows Contd...

Analysts commented that the growth of Linux in the last few years had been spectacular. However, they also expressed doubts regarding the viability of Linux as there were no proper applications that were compatible with the Linux operating system (o/s) and the popular Windows applications (Microsoft Office suite) would not work on Linux. In addition, it still had problems with graphical user interfaces. Another major threat faced by Linux was from copyright advocates who claimed that Linux would diminish the importance of copyrights and patents.

Open Source Movement Gaining Ground

Initially, in the computing industry, consumers were given programs that included the hardware and source code. The programmers were happy to share their source code and add the improvements made to the source code by others. However, the functioning of the industry changed in the 1970s, with firms like Microsoft withholding the source code, thus making the software an element of proprietary business.

Microsoft started selling its products without disclosing the source code. In the 1970s, the computing world was dominated by one operating system - Disk Operating System (DOS)6, though there was also another operating system provided by Bell Labs - Unix.7 Initially, Bell Labs allowed the source code of Unix to be taught in universities, but later on it guarded it closely.

In 1983, Microsoft introduced its revolutionary operating system - Windows, which changed the face of the computing world (Refer Exhibit III). Windows provided a graphical user interface -(GUI) operating environment for users, enabling them to run applications that used bitmap displays and mouse pointing devices.

Microsoft's Windows source code was a closely guarded secret. Selling Windows through an excellent marketing strategy, Microsoft was able to lock in customers to its operating system. The new style of software business was opposed by software enthusiasts and hackers, who felt that proprietary software would result in less cooperation and slower growth in the industry.

This led to the free software movement in early 1980s. In 1984, Richard Stallman (Stallman), former programmer at MIT's artificial intelligence lab, developed GNU software as an open source version of Unix. GNU software became workable in 1985. In order to prevent GNU software from turning into proprietary software, Stallman proposed a 'Copyleft' concept as opposed to copyright. According to the concept of 'Copyleft', developers could do whatever they wanted with the programs; even sell their own versions, as long as they made the source code available.

With the increasing popularity of GNU software, and with more and more programmers getting involved in its development, Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1985. FSF was formed mainly to collect funds for the development of free software; funds given to FSF were exempted from tax, and this attracted many donors for FSF. FSF also distributed copies of free software and services, for which it charged a nominal fee.

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6] A proprietary program that controls all the basic operations of a computer.
7] Unix is operating system written in the C language.