Open source Linux worth billions, Microsoft warned

News 23 Oct, 2008

Can Microsoft compete with an billion dollar open source project which benefits from widespread collaboration?

A new study claimed that the development of the Linux Fedora 9 operating system would cost $10.8 billion (£6.3 billion) to build, and that Microsoft’s software monopoly could disappear.

The value was measured by the Linux Foundation using today’s software development costs, with an estimated cost of $1.4 billion (£0.8 billion) for the Linux kernel alone.

The Foundation said that since it began in 1991, Linux has become a computing force with a $25 billion (£14.7 billion) ecosystem, powering devices from mobile phones to supercomputers.

Report authors Amanda McPherson, Brian Proffitt and Ron Hale-Evans said that the open nature of the Linux operating system benefited from its collaborative nature which meant that one company did not need to have responsibility for its development or support.

It also meant that companies that participated could share research and development costs in the billion-dollar Linux economy.

“The spreading of development burden among individuals and companies has resulted in a large and efficient ecosystem and unheralded software innovation,” the study said.

The cost of the software was estimated by examining Software Lines of Code in Fedora 9 to determine its open source software value.

The study claimed that the position the collaborative nature of Linux was the way of the future for many businesses due to its ‘enormous’ economic value.

It was also said that companies could also decrease their costs by sharing development burden with other Linux users.

The researchers also gave a sharp warning to Microsoft. It said: “Increasingly it’s becoming clear that shouldering this research and development burden individually, as Microsoft has done, is an expensive approach to building software.

“While monopoly position in the past has allowed them to fund this massive development, we believe that in the future competition from collaborative forces would make such an isolated position untenable."