Linux is now mainstream -- so mainstream, in fact, that two of the top three Linux distributions are commercially successful operations, and the third aims to be. Every day, more and more old-school IT firms shake off their initial doubts, get in line behind their customers, and try Linux and other free software projects. In the face of such success, will Linux remain true to its free software ideals and to the community which created it? Or will it morph into a corporate byproduct, driven by the bottom line, and complacent with all forms of predatory intellectual property (IP), including software patents and closed, proprietary standards which are standard fare in the IT industry.
Red Hat is the most successful commercial distribution of Linux. It has refined the model of selling services, not software, to the nth degree. Michael Tiemann, the man who first viewed the GPL as a business plan rather than a license, brought that model with him when Red Hat bought the firm he founded, Cygnus, which was the first successful open source company. Red Hat has been successful without selling out its beliefs in open source and free software. It puts its money where its mouth is on issues such as software patents, open standards, and the OLPC project.
Ubuntu, however, looms on the horizon.
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