Linux is an alternative to Microsoft Windows, that started on the premise that there were two ways to develop software:
- Either pay a bunch of programmers to do it, and exchange your money for their time. Generally, this software is sold on a “usage” basis, in that customers have the right to run it, but not to modify it.
- Get a larger bunch of programmers to get involved on a voluntary basis, because they were willing to put in their time to improve products. The “contract” as it were is that everyone can have the right to make improvements to the software directly, provided they share those improvements back with the community.
Companies like Microsoft, and Lotus took the first route – Microsoft employs an awful lot of programmers. Other groups took the “large numbers of volunteers” route.
That was now a long time ago. Over the last 10 years, more software companies have taken the view that there are some real benefits to using and improving, so-called Open Source Software, to the extent that a lot of “free software” is actually coded by paid employees – their employers having decided that it’s cheaper to modify something free than to buy in an expensive licence.
While most of the Internet’s servers now run in Linux, it’s also true to say that 98% of home PC users pick Windows. Linux was an alternative that, until relatively recently, always appeared to lag behind in functionality and ease of use.
More recently, however, a company called Canonical have sponsored a version of Linux called Ubuntu, which does seem to be a head-on competitor to Windows. Earlier this year, Dell started selling laptop and desktops with Ubuntu installed instead of Windows.
As of tomorrow, Dell are going to offer these products in Europe as well.
More information here at the Ubuntu website.