Linux Foundation: We'd love to work with Microsoft

In an interview, Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, talks about desire to interoperate and discusses the desktop outlook for Linux

InfoWorld: But Windows is still on 98, 99 per cent of PC desktops anyway, so do you think that number or that percentage will decrease?

Zemlin: Yes. Yes, I think it will actually.

InfoWorld: What's the penetration of Linux on handhelds?

Zemlin: Pretty high. I'll have to get you a specific market size number. It's in the tens of millions sold.

InfoWorld: We keep hearing about how, except for the United States and maybe a few other places, most Internet access is going be done on handheld devices.

Zemlin: Yes. Let me walk you through what's going on with Linux in that market. Similar economics [are] interestingly in effect there. [With] Motorola, for example, the Razr product is a Linux-based device. Now people don't know that because it's branded Motorola and it has a user interface, it doesn't say Linux all over it. What you're seeing in the Linux in mobile world is the emergence of several Linux-based platforms. Google has a platform called Android. That's a Linux-based platform, and they're building an SDK around that and working with handset manufacturers and telecommunications carriers to get that platform adopted in the market. There's a second group called the LiMo Foundation, [which] is an organization largely made up of handset manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Motorola, and others who are creating a mobile Linux reference platform for their devices. There's an organization called OpenMoko, which is creating a completely open-source phone.

So what you're seeing there [are] several organizations creating a Linux-based smartphone and trying to provide a development platform for those devices. The reason that they're choosing Linux is the same reason that PC world is starting to choose Linux. If you're a Motorola or an LG, would you rather, per device basis when you're selling tens of millions of devices, license Windows Mobile or the Symbian platform from Nokia, or would you rather have Linux, which is collaboratively designed, which supports every major architecture?

InfoWorld: So are Microsoft's days as the dominant provider of desktop and server and maybe even handheld operating systems numbered?

Zemlin: Monopolies don't last forever, so I mean, I think they've got a long way to go. It's just natural over time that people aren't going to allow a single company to dominate the market. But the more important thing that Microsoft I think is grappling with now, and you saw that recently they've opened up their protocols and they're trying to be a more open company, is they realize that there's been a fundamental shift in how companies create innovative products and compete in the marketplace. And companies are doing that through open and mass collaboration. They look at companies like Google, Facebook, organizations like Wikipedia. They look at the Human Genome Project and Linux, and all of these things that are crossing normal R&D boundaries -- you go hire the best people, we keep them inside, we closely guard our intellectual property -- [are] being turned inside out. And Microsoft is having a hard time competing in that world.

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Paul Krill

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