Linux: Do you believe?

Are you open source developers afraid of the growing influence that IBM, Intel, Hewlett Packard and other established companies are having over open source?

A couple of months back, I asked open-source backers if they were afraid of Linux becoming less of a grassroots initiative, and more one controlled by the big industry powers. After this week's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York, which kicked off with keynotes from IBM and Intel, I'd like to ask again.

But this time, I'd add an additional twist to my query. Are you open-source developers afraid of the growing influence that IBM, Intel, Hewlett Packard and other established companies are having over open source? And, secondly, do you believe the corporate powers' rhetoric, when it comes to the reasons that they love this alternative operating system that they don't own and can't stop?

IBM and Intel officials took great pains to explain why their respective corporations have become so bullish about Linux. At the same time, Microsoft officials, who were lurking about the halls of the Javits Convention Center, spent a lot of cycles pooh-poohing Linux, while begrudgingly admitting that there are a couple of redeeming qualities in the open-source model. (But only a couple. And not very important ones, just "minor" things, like providing your customers with copies of the source code, Microsoft is quick to remind us.)

IBM president and chief operating officer Sam Palmisano was visibly nervous in addressing the open-source masses on Wednesday morning. Like many of the traditional computing powerhouses, IBM can't decide if it should risk claiming that it is part of the open-source community, or if it is merely helping and watching from a respectful distance. Sometimes Palmisano was talking about "you developers"; other times, he was including IBM among the Linux and open-source faithful.

Palmisano told the audience there are several concrete reasons why IBM is betting a $1 billion on Linux. And none of them is because IBM wants to hijack the little operating system that could.

Palmisano pointed out that IBM is impressed with analyst predictions that show Linux continuing to hold the position as the fastest growing server operating system over the next few years. And software sells hardware--everything from thin-client stations to mainframes. Palmisano noted that IBM's European and Asian customers are demanding Linux, and IBM's in-house developers are jazzed about it. IBM Global Services sees dollar signs, too; $300 million of the $1 billion IBM Linux commitment is going to be spent setting up new Linux-related consulting services that IBM can hawk.

Plausible reasons, one and all. I'd suggest one more: IBM and the other corporate powers are happy finally to have an alternative to Microsoft Windows. Don't underestimate the weight that the good, old ABM (anything but Microsoft) mentality plays in vendor and customer decisions.

What's your take? Is "Anything But Microsoft" still a major motivating factor for companies to develop and use Linux and other open source? Or are the new corporate backers and existing open-source folks being driven by other, more noble and high-minded reasons? TalkBack below and let me know what you think.