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Editor's Note: A Little Coopertition Never Hurt Anyone
The More, the Merrier
July 13, 2000
This is an old question, but one that now bears a new look: are there too many Linux distributions available, and are we merely confusing the vast unwashed sea of non-Linux users by supporting a wide range of distributions that may or may not have a lot to differentiate them?
This is not an idle question. Those from the retail field know that there's such a thing as offering too many choices to users, and that a distinctive design (or a set of designs that fall within some clear parameters) and a notable brand will usually lead to greater consumer awareness.
I bring this up now, as we're in the midst of a rash of new Linux distributions hitting the market:
In each case, the new Linux distribution is designed to either fill a niche or else to push new technology.
Contrast this, then, to ZDNet's bold assertion recently that only two Linux distributions--Caldera and Red Hat--really matter, and that the rest of the Linux world could disappear and it wouldn't really matter.
Of course, the folks at ZDNet were merely trolling for readers (as they often do), and I am not going to reward this blatant effort with a link back to the original article. But the assertion is rather silly: I would imagine that if SuSE Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, TurboLinux, Slackware Linux, Storm Linux, Corel Linux, or any of the embedded Linuxes were to disappear, the computing world would be heavily diminished.
That's why I hold the opinion that the more Linux distributions, the better. While I'm not a rabid free marketer, I do believe that the Linux world has been seriously enhanced by the sheer number of distributions available, and that the unique blend of cooperation and competion in the Linux world--let's call it coopertition (while also pointing out that the term was first used by Ray Noorda when he was at Novell)--has served both users and developers well.