When Linux Isn't Called Linux

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 22, 2010

Critics of Linux have pointed for years to the fact that desktop market share for the operating system has tended to hover around 1 percent, rarely showing strong signs of becoming more prevalent. And, indeed, Linux still doesn't have the penetration of Microsoft's Windows or Apple's Mac OS. Nevertheless, though, operating systems featuring Linux at the core--but ones that don't advertise their Linux heritage--have steadily become a bigger and more influential part of both the desktop and mobile technology markets.

As Steven Vaughan-Nichols notes, Hewlett-Packard, the number one PC seller on the planet is trending toward becoming a significant Linux distributor. In acquiring Palm, HP also acquires the Linux-based WebOS, and if HP is smart, it will pursue a very open strategy with WebOS, possibly on mobile phones, and possible on iPad-like tablet devices. HP also has acquired rights to Phoenix Technologies' HyperSpace, a lean Linux distro that provides instant-on capabilities.

Sure, it's unlikely that HP will abandon its long-standing Windows-centric strategies and embrace Linux as the heart of its operating system strategy. No, its ties to Microsoft remain strong. But the point is that HP doesn't need to favor Linux for Linux to benefit. It just needs to support a growing ecosystem around Linux. Let's not forget that Apple's OS had only 5 percent of the desktop market for years, and Apple thrived with that share.

Google, too, has demonstrated how powerful Linux can be when it's not branded as Linux. Android is a hugely successful mobile OS, based on Linux. Google's upcoming Chrome OS is Linux-based and was developed with the help of the Canonical team. Increasingly, Linux is having an impact on desktop and mobile technology users when it isn't called Linux.