IBM, whose decision to back Linux years ago was a driving force in its adoption by business, called on developers of the open-source operating system to make it more “green” and to stop copying Windows, if they want to see Linux on the desktop.
Bob Sutor, VP of open source and standards at IBM, told attendees of the LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco, that what the open source community needs to make Linux popular as a desktop OS used by consumers and businesses are “some really good graphic designers.”
“Stop copying 2001 Windows. That’s not where the usability action is,” Sutor said during his afternoon keynote.
Sutor’s comments came a day after IBM announced at the show that it was joining Linux distributors Canonical, Novell, and Red Hat in building Microsoft-free PCs for business. The four companies agreed to provide hardware partners with the software to build desktops that would have alternatives to Windows and Office.
IBM’s comments to the Linux community of developers carry a lot of weight, given the huge investment and contribution the tech company has made to the OS. IBM threw its weight behind Linux in December 2000, when it promised to spend $1 billion on development of the OS the following year.
Sutor offered “predictions” that collectively seemed more like a roadmap of where IBM would like to see Linux evolve over the next 10 years. Among the areas developers should focus is in making the OS more green, Sutor said.
Linux needed to become even more efficient in its use of resources to bolster efforts to reduce energy consumption in the data center. Even though server virtualization, load balancing, better resource management and other technologies make the OS efficient today, “there’s got to be more.”
“I’ve got this lingering feeling that open source has not done enough,” Sutor said, noting that the community hasn’t thought hard enough about how to make Linux even more efficient. “We’re doing the obvious things,” he said.
In addition, the small and medium-size business market presented a “great opportunity for Linux,” because the free OS could help to reduce cost, Sutor said. However, SMBs also need “turnkey applications” that just run with very little maintenance. In the long term, IBM expected SMB technology to evolve into products that combine open source and proprietary technologies, as well as Web services. Within that mix, however, “we want to work with open source to get a toehold there,” Sutor said.
IBM also believes there’s an opportunity for the open source community to build industry-specific applications that would run on Linux. “I’m getting tired of waiting,” Sutor said of the lack of such software.
Open-source business software should be appealing to developers who believe all software should be free, something that Sutor didn’t believe would happen anytime soon. “Prove me wrong.”
Sutor said he believed the many open source licenses, as well as the many software standards bodies, that exist today, would eventually dwindle to only a few. As it is now, five or six open source licenses cover more than 90% of the available software today.
On the standards front, IBM planned to work hard toward reform over the next 10 years, believing only five or six bodies are enough to approve technology standards. “We’ve got to get rid of this,” Sutor said of the current labyrinth of standards and the bodies that approve them.
Finally, Sutor believed Linux over time would branch out well beyond the x86 server platform, where it has become most successful today, and will become a strong player in Internet-connected appliances, handheld devices, smart phones, and other technology. “Linux may become much more widely used, but you may not know it,” he said.
In conclusion, Sutor said the last decade in which IBM has been involved with Linux “has been a heck of a ride, and we’re incredibly impressed.” Going forward, however, the Linux community had to be conscious of the “enemies of open source” and couldn’t rest. Although Sutor didn’t say who these enemies are, Microsoft has certainly been a major detractor.
“We’re very positive about the future of Linux,” Sutor said. “We’re not going to slack off.”