A ZDNet article covering the opening of the Linux World trade show also has a thorough “state of Linux business” overview. Some highlights: Big firms like HP, IBM, and Microsoft(!) will have a big presence; it seems like Linux willl continue its rapid rise in adoption, though it will still be difficult for firms to make the huge profits that companies like Microsoft have made because Linux resists lock-in; enterprise software vendors like BEA will continue to support Linux; and hardware vendors are embracing it more.Reporting in the mainstream media on Linux is always a bit schizophrenic, and there’s a very clear reason for this. Business journalism places a huge premium on revenue. Many times the market share statistics that we read are based on revenue generated, because those statistics are easy to gather, since every company brags to its investors about how much money they make. Money talks, and traditionally a successful product is a big money maker. Linux, to some extent, defies these conventions. It is successful to some extend precisely because it breaks the mold and enables its users to get out from under the thumb of its vendors. That’s why virtually every article you’ll read in the business media will mention Linux’s dramatic adoption rate only in the same breath with “but nobody’s really making much money off of it.”
It’s ironic that some of the same people who fume that the best way to stimulate the economy is to reduce taxes so firms and individuals will have more money to invest in growth, fail to recognize that Linux’s contribution to the economy is similar. Businesses that save millions of dollars in unnecessary licensing fees by using linux (even if they have to hire a new sysadminor two to do it) are freeing up money that would be locked away in Bill Gates’ pocket and using it to grow their businesses. Instead of this half-sorrowful bewilderment at Linux’s failure to generate massive profit margins for its corporate backers, the business media should recognize that open source software has economy-stimulating potential–just in a more distributed fashion.