Will 2006 Be The Year of Linux?

As we near the end of 2005, it occurs to me that January 2006 will bring a rash of stories about how 2006 will be the year of Linux. Why not, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 were all “The Year of Linux”. Frankly, I’m getting sick of them.

I don’t think that we can name any year “The Year of Linux”. If I were to attempt to take on Microsoft with my own operating system and said that if I get 1,000,000 purchases that I will have hit my targets and if I made x Dollars and if I could get y articles in z magazines and websites, then and only then could I say that “this year was the year of my OS”. Linux can’t really do that.

To start with, just about all the distributions are available for download. This means that it is hard to keep an accurate record of use – I could download the iso files once and burn 60 discs for each one. The download would show a count of one, but the install base would be much much higher. We could get Linux to “dial home”, of course, but this would be discovered almost immediately and the distribution would suffer untold harm. So that’s not going to happen.

All distributions could make it so that they don’t do download releases – that you have to purchase a box-set. That would make it easier to count the install base more accurately. Except that each distro would find itself quickly forked off, all proprietary software removed (which is one of the reasons a box-set is preferred to a download) and all branding removed. Because the GPL let’s us do that. So that wouldn’t work.

The distributions could include a registration page, where the minimum you have to do is to click a submit button to enable you to be counted. But then we all try many distributions before settling on our favourite one, so the count would be artificially high. Or a workaround for that would be found. So that wouldn’t work.

The Linux Counter Project tells us that

At Nov 20 2005 19:05:24 GMT, there are
142537
users registered
155159
machines registered
My guess at the number of Linux users:
Twenty-nine million

Which gives a count of people who have bothered to register and a very rough estimate of the actual total.

Frankly, an open source operating system will never be able to accurately able to count the total number of users – it may be an overly ambitious project.
The Year of Linux will probably come when the number of corporate desktops reaches a “tipping point”, where the number of users of Microsoft’s desktops shrinks to a point where they seriously panic. I don’t know if that is 10%, 5% or 50%, but should it come (and I hope it does), we will then be able to say that that year is “it”.

So what can we, as users, do to make this happen? Evangelise. We should work on our employers, on our educational establishments, on our friends and family to get them involved in the community. Linux will not work on every desktop immediately, a number of organisations rely on custom built proprietary software which can not be quickly ported to Linux, but some of the desktops will work.

Where possible, set up a Linux box that can connect to the network and get people to log into it and use it. Only with a practical, hands-on demonstartion will you be able to convince them.

When objections are raised, calmly and coolly discuss and debate the points with them, explaining why we think that Linux is the best tool in that situation. And equally calmly, respond to their points. It may be worthwhile to set up some bookmarks which will illustrate the points you want to make.

The fact is that now that Linux is known about, backed by big firms and has a respectable amount of software available to it, the only thing that really holds us back is advocacy. The “other side” has their advocates – Forbes and the like – so we each of us need to put in the work.

So carry Knoppix and brush up on your anti-FUD and maybe, just maybe, one year will be the year of Linux.

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Posted on 20 November, 2005, in Computer Stuff, Generalities, Open Source. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. the “year of linux” to me occured back in 1999. that was around the time i started seeing linux for sale in the local computer stores. quite frankly, i’d prefer to call it the “year of the penguin” instead of the “year of linux” cause it makes up so much more than just the linux kernel. tux represents all the hard work of all the developers that any distro decides to package with their own product.

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