The coming Linux shakeout

While there is a low barrier to entry in the Linux space, however, the truth is that there are leaders and there are laggards, and that the distance between the two continues to grow.

As any product becomes part of the mass market, it's inevitable that competition will narrow and the space will shake-out.

Thanks in part to Google, Linux is finally becoming a mainstream OS, something ordinary people carry around with them. It's not just for propeller-heads any more.

This leads naturally to thoughts of a shake-out, to consolidation within the space forcing some distros to just go away. Our Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has a piece (with a poll) up right now suggesting that Android and Chrome might sideline other distros.

That's certainly possible, but who might be shaken?

Not I, says Ubuntu -- The leading desktop Linux distro (yes, it does sound like being the best soccer player from Vanuatu) has launched a new marketing attack on rival Red Hat. It has a version coming out for tablets. And there's probably a version localized for use in Vanuatu, too.

Not I, says Red Hat -- Red Hat, the leading commercial distro, keeps racking up cloud wins, it is actually making money, and it has just launched a marketing campaign against Novell.

Not I, says Novell -- Novell has expanded its relationship with VMWare, its profits were up last quarter, and it's still tight with Microsoft. (There's no truth to that rumor it's joining the Big Ten.)

There are a host of distros that seem quite capable of moving forward without much cash. The top 10 of Linux still features such outfits as CentOS, Slackware, and FreeBSD, all of whom have their fans.

I haven't even mentioned Oracle Unbreakable Linux. And Microsoft is still rumored to own the space. There are specialty distros for everything under the sun. As Kingsley-Hughes himself notes Chrome and Android are really just specialized distros that don't provide full Linux functionality. Horses for courses.

While there is a low barrier to entry in the Linux space, however, the truth is that there are leaders and there are laggards, and that the distance between the two continues to grow. Are you really still in the game if no one knows who you are?

While the shake-out that is now beginning may not cause distros to go dark, it is going to create new market separation. There is going to be clear market leadership, probably more interoperability, and a bigger application ecosystem. All these things are good.

So if a shake-out means failure, bring it on. [poll id="116"]