The future is... Linux televisions

Summary:Opera board member John Patrick explains why Microsoft's domination of the browser market won't last forever and how Linux will continue to evolve

So if Microsoft will not dominate the overall browser market, what about the desktop?

The market will segment. There are some people that like to have a large flat panel on their desk -- I have two. Email goes into one and my blogging tools are on the other. For someone working in graphics or writing or media, that is the environment they are going to use; they are not going to use a handheld to edit movies.

So although we will see a very large segment, possibly billions of people, who will only use a handheld, it doesn't mean the market for PCs is going to go down. Remember there are only about half a billion people on the Internet right now out of seven billion people. How many of them are active? As a percentage of the world's population, it is a small number.

The market for desktop PCs and laptops will continue to grow, but there also will be an emerging market for things we hold in our hand and put in our pocket that will become very large -- larger than the desktop market.

Internet security is a huge issue and Microsoft often comes under criticism for its security issues, but is the company doing enough to safeguard Web users?

Security on the Web is far better than it used to be. But the number of people interested in disrupting things is also larger, so increased diligence is required by both vendors and users.

We all know that security should be receiving more attention then it has. In the past, Microsoft's priority was clearly to get features and functions in the market and worry about security later. If they are changing that approach, and they say they are, then congratulations to them, they should be 

Linux is penetrating servers and starting to be used in desktops in all industries, but how far can it go?

Linux is gaining on the desktop because governments are pushing the idea and I think schools will too, but the powerhouse going on with Linux is in the other extremes -- both little and big. On the high end, Linux clusters are being adopted for supercomputing and IBM has been fuelling much of that. In the financial services and most major companies in the world today are at least considering Linux for servers -- things like mail servers, infrastructure, utility servers, firewalls. But they are also beginning to deploy them in mission critical activities because they are finding that there are skills out there.

At the other end, you have Linux in a wristwatch and in telephones. There is no doubt in my mind that we will have Linux televisions too. Look at the Tivo, which is a Linux computer.

This is like Java was ten years ago. There were a lot of sceptics and I used to say if you are sceptical, talk to kids. Go to universities and ask them what they think of Java and they would say, 'what are you talking about, of course we are writing code in Java'. This is what is happening with Linux now. Linux is going to be pervasive and that's why I am optimistic about Opera because it has a very nice Linux browser.

Why is Linux so popular? Is it because it is free?

There is a perception that Linux is about "free", but my belief is that Linux is about "freedom".

It is not about free because it is not free, no software is free. There are implicit costs involved in using any software. The issue is about freedom -- for people to make the choices they want to make, to have the partnerships they want with other vendors and not have to spend so many resources tracking licences.

I met with a school district recently and the teachers were telling me that one of their biggest challenges is maintaining this binder full of all the licence agreements they have with Microsoft. They feel inhibited doing anything new because they are afraid Microsoft's lawyers will be calling them.

Freedom is very empowering. I am using Windows on one machine and Linux on the other and I use Open Office on both of them -- without any compatibility problems. Ximian evolution is excellent and it has some features that Outlook does not have. When you use it you feel the freedom.

There is a dark cloud hanging over Linux in the form of a SCO law suite. How much does this worry you?

Nothing can stop a grass roots initiative such as Linux. It would be like somebody saying we are going to stop the Internet. I can't imagine any judge saying, 'yes, I think we should consider that' -- it is not on the cards.

I read the same things everybody else does about this particular suit, but I rise above that and say, can I envision any scenario that would stop Linux, and I can't. It is that simple from my perspective.

Topics: Networking


Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.Munir was recognised as Austr... Full Bio

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