Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Free Standards Group, called this morning with good news.
Debian founder Ian Murdock has joined FSG as chief technology officer and has been elected chair of the Linux Standard Base workgroup. (The picture comes from Ian's blog.)
"He founded an open source project with thousands of contributors, the largest non-commercial Linux distribution," Zemlin said excitedly. "Our organization provides a standard for the Linux platform, and when you develop a standard you need not just technical knowledge but the ability to build a consensus and decide what gets standardized." Murdock comes not only with technical knowledge, but diplomatic experience.
Naturally, this got me asking about desktop Linux. A mass client market for Linux requires a stable platform, and easy-to-run applications. Thus the work of the FSG is a first step.
Zemlin agreed. "We’re moving towards a world where the Linux platform is viable, soemthing application vendors want to support. They want to easily target the Linux ecosystem, so we want a standard that lets them target that platform without having to do a disproportionate amount of work and target each distribution. By providing a standard we greatly reduce their cost.
"I take a longer view of things than most. I think a Linux desktop is inevitable. In India, China and South America there are places where a Linux desktop is highly valuable, a low cost alternative to other platforms, and solves a lot of issues. The key to broad adoption is the ability to get an application and run it, without confusion. That’s where standardization becomes incredibly important.
"What people are saying is they want a higher quality Linux desktop. And they want lots of applications. When they get that there’s no need for piracy."
So, how far away are we? Back in the 1980s, a ZD booth ran a poll at Comdex, with a tote board above the booth, asking people which operating system they thought would dominate the future. (This was before Windows made the question moot.)
So, when do you think Linux will become a viable desktop option for the mass market? One year? Three? Five? Never-never-never?