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Linux boss: We're number one where it counts

Jim Zemlin buoyant on open source success

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Collaboration Summit 2012 At the start of the 6th annual Linux Foundation's Collaboration Summit, chief executive Jim Zemlin is in buoyant mood. Attendance has never been better, open source code is becoming more popular in new areas of the industry, and Linux is number one in all the sectors that count.

"We want to continue our trajectory in every corner of the industry," Zemlin told The Register. "We're seeing Linux as the primary platform for greenfield sites in large enterprises, the primary operating system for cloud computing build outs, and we're seeing tremendous growth in mobile and the embedded markets."

While some in Redmond might point to the fact that Linux is still not king of the corporate desktop, Zemlin said that that battle isn't particularly relevant anymore. People use a wider variety of computing devices to use computers, and the browser is the becoming the most common interface for most users.

Linux's success is, however, causing some bottlenecks. There aren't enough systems developers at present to manage the number of Linux rollouts currently under development, Zemlin suggests, and while there are plenty of skilled coders, large-scale implementations require a certain skill set. That said, there is a huge base of Linux coders out there working today.

Zemlin has, in the past, been very supportive of the MeeGo operating system, but manufacturers are less keen. MeeGo, and its successor/sidekick Tizen, are both still useful, he said, and, combined with Android means, that only Linux and Apple are having much success in the smartphone market.

"Those three systems have a lot more in common than you might think on the technical side," he explained. "The sheer amount of code that's been released out there into open source that allows for next Steve Jobs to grab this stuff and, for pretty low cost, create the next iPhone."

On the embedded side, Linux is the number-one operating system, and companies are now really getting on board, he said. Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Broadcom are on board, and the amount of help they are giving in sorting out drivers is very useful. In sessions at the conference, kernel experts pointed out that this support is going to be key to future developments in the operating system.

One section of the market Zemlin is watching very closely is the current round of patent wars enveloping the industry, as companies seek competitive advantage in the courts. He praised the work of the Open Invention Network, which sets a patent no-fly zone as its base point, and said this was proving attractive to developers looking to avoid being dragged through the courts.

"The wider problem with patents is – and it's a problem the software industry as a whole faces, open or closed, is that there are a lot of crappy patents out there," he said. "I think you'll see the pendulum swing in other direction around the patent war if it continues." ®

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