Linux wins big in three coups

Yahoo signs on, a German enterprise plans a 10,000-user switch, and Microsoft reveals Windows' slipping share.

April has turned out to be a stellar month for Linux.

Not only are we slated to receive the game-changing and final version of Ubuntu 11.04, or "Natty Narwhal," this week, but three additional coups for Linux have been revealed in the news just in the past week or so.

Need further evidence that Linux is on the rise? Here you go.

1. Yahoo Joins the Linux Foundation

New companies join the Linux Foundation pretty much every week, and that fact alone is a testament to the growing reach and influence of the open source operating system. A big-name addition, however, always causes extra excitement.

Back in January I highlighted the new membership of Broadcom, which was particularly notable because of the company's historical reliance on proprietary drivers in its chipsets, frequently causing problems for Linux users. Following the company's release last September of a fully open and Linux-compatible driver for several of its 802.11n wireless chipsets, its decision to join the Linux Foundation came as a promise that such problems will soon disappear altogether.

Now, however, there's what may be an even more visible boost for Linux in Yahoo's decision to join. With more than half a billion visitors each month in more than 30 languages, Yahoo uses Linux as an integral part of its technical and developer infrastructure. A more high-profile member would be difficult to imagine.

"The Linux Foundation is host to a variety of very important Linux projects as well as resources, tools and events that allow us to maximize our investment in the platform," says Raymie Stata, Yahoo's CTO. "Linux is an important software aspect of the World Wide Web and is one of several components that will continue to be used in the future of computing. Yahoo! is excited to collaborate with The Linux Foundation and its peers to advance technologies that will help Linux achieve its promise."

2. 10,000 German PCs Embrace Ubuntu

There's no doubt Linux users are growing in number, but it's not every day the operating system gets a boost like the one recently achieved by Canonical in Germany. Specifically, German insurance giant LVM Versicherungen has signed a deal with Canonical to convert 10,000 PCs to Ubuntu Linux across its operations.

Included in that total are reportedly 3,000 desktops and laptops in the company's Muenster headquarters along with 7,000 more in the company's agencies around Germany.

"Many companies are waking up to the realization that there is an alternative to an endless cycle of license fees that can amount to millions of dollars. We believe that the investment that LVM have made in converting to Ubuntu by engaging with Canonical will pay off many times," says Steve George, Canonical's vice president of business development.

3. Microsoft Reveals Windows Decline

Microsoft is nothing if not a master at trumpeting its own horn, and recently it's being doing just that over the 350 million copies of Windows 7 it says it has sold since the software's debut.

One thing it apparently forgot to mention, however, is that that's not so good. In fact, it doesn't even keep up with the total number of PCs sold, as my Infoworld colleague Woody Leonhard noted today.

Not only that, but it's also getting worse. In fact, whereas Microsoft sold 0.78 Windows 7 licenses for each PC sold between the time of the software's launch and June 30, 2010 -- covering 251 days -- my colleague calculated that it had sold only 0.67 Windows 7 licenses for each PC sold between July 1, 2010, and April 22, 2011, representing a period of 275 days. In other words, more than one-third of all new PCs sold in the past 9 months didn't include Windows 7.

I think it's fair to assume that a good number of them are running Linux instead. Preloaded options, after all, are increasingly common, and the reasons to switch are more compelling with each passing Patch Tuesday.

Wikipedia's visitor statistics also support the idea. Whereas Linux users accounted for only 1.85 per cent of visits to the site in July 2010 -- Windows users totaled 85.63 per cent back then -- in March of this year they amounted to 2.53 per cent, compared with 81.78 per cent for Windows users. That's an increase of 37 per cent in Linux-based visitors and a decrease of 4.5 per cent in Windows users -- not, of course, separating out Windows 7.

In short, there's no end in sight to the gains for Linux, and I expect Natty Narwhal will push that momentum even further. Isn't it time you tested out the advantages of Linux for your business?

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Katherine Noyes

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