Feeds

Android bakes bitter 20th birthday cake for Linux

The fork's tines are forking: This is a tree, not cutlery

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

As Linux celebrates its 20th birthday, its biggest success – mobile – is turning into its worst headache.

Thanks to Google's Android, and in turn thanks to the success of Steve Jobs' iPhone and iPad, Linux has found a fresh lease of life.

Smartphones running the Android version of Linux account for 39 per cent of the market; Android has given existing phone-makers a fresh opportunity and propelled newcomers. iOS is second to Android on 29 per cent of the smartphone market, coming as it does from just a single OEM: Apple. iOS is number-one on tablets, however, with Android coming second.

The smartphone and tablet have arrived just as it seemed Linux's biggest disruptive days were behind it.

What started as an off-the-radar hobby for geeks had crossed into the business mainstream by the 2000s as companies recognised it as an alternative to the cost and lock-in of Windows on the server.

While Linux failed to unlock the desktop, still owned by Windows, it was application and server makers' adoption of it that turned Linux into the second most popular server operating system. Linux has borne various distros running on those servers – Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu being the most popular.

And yet, Linux is second, not first – albeit a healthy second. Despite the hard work by IBM, HP and Dell in making and selling servers, and the engineering and support work of Red Hat, Novell and Canonical, Linux still lags Windows.

Linux ascended despite the best efforts of Microsoft to discredit and sabotage it. Microsoft called Linux a "cancer" that threatened software makers' IP, it launched a "get the facts" campaign to undermine the commercial story for Linux, and tried to put people off by insinuating they risked prosecution by Microsoft as Linux contained Microsoft patents.

Microsoft's attacks blew themselves out, though, and cooler business heads are in charge as Microsoft's server business has worked to make Linux run better on Windows server through its hypervisor software. Linux on the Windows hypervisor means more Windows servers in the cloud, rather than Windows servers losing out to Linux servers in the cloud.

Microsoft hasn't stopped being any less threatening towards Linux, however, it has just changed tactics as the excitement shifts to mobile. As phone sales have exploded, Redmond has started hunting down Android device-makers, claiming the Linux they love violates its patents, and it is either prosecuting them or tying them up in deals to license its patent portfolio. The result is that Microsoft is profiting from Android, because under these deals Microsoft gets a percentage of the money from the sale of each Android phone.

Microsoft's attacks have come as Apple has turned aggressively litigious against Android and those companies making and selling phones and tablets running Linux.

Round up the cheerleaders

As the heat is turning up, the company responsible for Android – and credited for having propelled Linux into mobile – has taken two steps that have left techs speechless. The standing army of cheerleaders who've spent the last few years shouting about how it's game over for Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and anybody else not in love with Android are suddenly chilled by uncertainty.

First, Google caused consternation by ending the Android code free-for-all. It broke with its practice of open-sourcing the most recent version of Android – Honeycomb. Google claimed it took a "shortcut" to get Honeycomb to market and did not release the code because it was not suited for use on phones. The next version of Android, dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich", will be open-sourced "by the end of the year", we are now told.

Next, Google unsettled Android OEM partners with its plan to spend $12.5bn buying Motorola's phone business – Motorola being the world's second-largest maker of Android handsets. Google's Android chief Andy Rubin claims it's business as usual and that Google's Android partners are on board with the deal, but the facts say otherwise.

Security for virtualized datacentres

Next page: A time to panic

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.