LINUXCON IS over for another year, but while we were there we got some time with friend of the INQ Jim Zemlin, head honcho of the Linux Foundation, and took the opportunity to ask him our Legends of Linux questions to celebrate 25 years of the operating system.
What's your first memory of Linux?
My memory is going to be funny because I worked at a hosted software company before I worked in open source. I was working at a company called Acorio. We were hosting enterprise software and we were dragged into an office and asked what our Linux strategy was.
At the time everything was running on Solaris and such and the ironic thing was that at the time everyone laughed and asked: 'Who on Earth ran anything worthwhile on Linux?'. And that is actually my first memory of Linux in any kind of business context.
What do you believe has been Linux's biggest contribution to the world?
You can better yourself while making the world better at the same time.
When did you start getting paid for doing work in Linux and what was it doing?
2004 for me. Working at the Linux Foundation.
What has been the biggest single challenge to Linux's success?
Making sure that the organisations that use Linux understand how to participate and adhere to the legal obligations of code sharing.
In general, though, the biggest challenge is always getting the business people out of the way who might question the business model and don’t appreciate that open source is a viable business.
What has been its biggest triumph?
When Oracle and IBM announced that they would support the Linux kernel. That was a triumph. When Android decided to base on Linux, that was a triumph too.
Android is an interesting one because up until that point Linux had existed in an x86 world. When Android came in, every system-on-a-chip maker, every vendor, took notice of Linux in their architecture. Suddenly every single architecture supported Linux. And that was a big breakthrough.
Do you believe that Linux has a future on the consumer desktop as well as the mobile and the server?
I see a huge future for Chromebooks particularly, and Andromeda if and when Google chooses to announce it. Plus, of course, other desktop distributions which have a huge and dedicated following.
Why does the open source model work so well in a world of profits and shareholders?
There are lots of different words for this - conscious capitalism, sustainable development - but at the end of the day these market models and public-private partnerships work.
When you look at the world today it’s not a corporate vs community world, it’s a symbiotic relationship. It's products that create profit that can be reinvested into the community and make more profit while aiding the community.
It’s not a case of only one can survive. Society is too sophisticated for a ‘winner takes all’ approach.
This is the first conference since Linux and Windows became officially 'buds'. How is that partnership going, do you think?
Good! Microsoft recognises, along with Apple and more and more of the big players, that this is a better way to meet their customers' needs.
What does the next 25 years hold for Linux?
Companies are going through a digital transformation whether they know it or not. Appliance companies, for example, are becoming smart appliance companies. Car companies are bringing out smart cars.
The next 25 years is going to be about reaching all of those companies and showing them that an open infrastructure is the way to go and helping them fulfil their customer requirements.
Our biggest opportunity is to provide training, strategy advice and legal frameworks, and to improve security. If you’re asking me what the next big thing is going to be, no-one ever really knows. Our job at the Foundation is to make sure people are ready for it.
Any anecdotes to share?
I’m the supporting cast here. I’m the guy who convinces businesses of the use case for this software. I’m the guy that gets funding for projects that can’t get it for themselves.
I’m not a hero and I don’t want to take the credit for heroes like Linus and the community who do the real work. µ
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