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Linux Foundation Head Says OS Can Be 'Fabulous and Free'

Linux Powers Consumer Electronics

  • April 15, 2010
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
Sean Michael Kerner

Where is Linux headed? That's a question the Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, is focused on as his organization gears up for the Linux Collaboration Summit this week.

In Zemlin's view, Linux is strategically placed at the intersection of a number of major IT trends that will serve to bolster adoption of the open source operating system. With the increasing growth of the mobile web and cloud services, Zemlin thinks Linux will end up the big winner.

"These trends were not started by Linux but Linux really is an enabler," Zemlin told InternetNews.com. "Could Google be the company they are today if they were written on [Microsoft's] .NET? Could Facebook? The answer is no, you need an open platform that you can own yourself, modify, customize and scale. "

Zemlin added that in service oriented cloud computing, operational efficiency is the differentiator. The current state of the economy has also been a good thing for the Linux ecosystem, in Zemlin's view.

"The recession really did change people's minds about how they spend money and we are priced to move," Zemlin said.

Moving forward, he stressed that Linux can't rest on its laurels and still has room for improvement and growth. One key area that Zemlin wants to see improve is the perception that Linux can't be both free and fabulous, especially in regards to Linux powered consumer electronics.

"What you'll see in the next few years are products that are both fabulous and free," Zemlin said. "I think you'll see Linux specifically in consumer electronics efforts that bring real magic to the platform. In the next few years, the platform will get really exciting."

Zemlin believes that Linux can deliver the same type of magic or better than what Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs professes for his platforms. Zemlin added that there is already hundreds of millions invested in Linux now and the industry is only at the beginning of the cycle with mobile platforms like Android and MeeGo.

Consumer electronics vendors are also buying into Linux, with LG Electronics announcing Wednesday that it is joining the Linux Foundation.

"The consumer electronics and mobile industry is betting on Linux and is betting big," Zemlin said. "LG is the first of many, many more that we expect will join in on this effort."

Consumer electronics vendors need not worry about legal issues with Linux, either, as the Linux Foundation has got that covered, too. In recent years, Microsoft has made multiple deals with vendors to license intellectual property which Microsoft claims Linux may infringe upon. Over the last three years, Microsoft has been successful at getting multiple vendors � including Amazon, Brother International, Fuji Xerox, Kyocera Mita, Samsung Electronics and TomTom International BV � to enter into patent deals.

Zemlin noted that providing legal resources is a core competency of the Linux Foundation.

"The main message is that our organization along with the industry has created sophisticated resources for collective legal defense," Zemlin said. "We don't think that open source or Linux is really unique in terms of any inherent risk, it's just different."

Zemlin added that some people will point to legal issues as being a challenge for Linux, but that's not his viewpoint.

"I see them still existing but diminishing mainly because this stuff (Linux) runs everything, from every major trading exchange to air traffic control and major Web sites" Zemlin said. "We've got lots and lots of friends, but we will always remain vigilant."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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