Linux history. Part III: new markets and old "enemies"

    We remembered the first commercial Linux distributions that were released in the 90s. Now it's time for the 2000s — the period when this OS began to conquer consumer markets. / Flickr / Liam Quinn / CC BY-SA

    Step towards the consumer

    Ten to twenty years ago, Linux's share of the PC operating system market was quite low — less than 2%. One of the reasons for this was the lack of a familiar desktop environment. Things started to change with the advent of KDE and GNOME. They are still the most popular Linux desktop environments. These two products became one of the first signals for the birth of a distribution for the consumer market. And he did not keep himself waiting.

    In 2004, the release of Ubuntu 4.10, built on the Debian architecture, took place. The project owes its appearance to the entrepreneur and developer Mark Shuttleworth.

    Mark, although he worked on Debian, saw in it a number of shortcomings that did not fit into his idea of ​​an ideal OS. Shuttleworth believed that it was necessary to change the approach to the update cycle and to focus on the availability of the product. In the end, he and several colleagues decided to found Canonical and start developing his distribution.

    The open source community warmly welcomed the new system with a stable update release schedule - twice a year. Three years after the advent of the OS, it became the most popular desktop Linux distribution. Users chose Ubuntu for ease of installation and security. Over the years, we can say that the idea of ​​Mark Shuttleworth to create a convenient and understandable Linux-product came true.

    As often happened in the history of open source software, the idea of ​​an improved alternative came up shortly after the release of the first version of Ubuntu. In 2006, Clement Lefebvre, creator of the Linux Mint distribution, was guided by this very idea. The first version of its OS was based on Kubuntu, but already with v2.0, developers switched to Ubuntu. From that moment, Mint scooped up more and more ideas from its predecessor, and two years later the update cycle was finally “tied” to Ubuntu releases.

    A feature of Linux Mint is support for proprietary software, including plugins and codecs for playing multimedia files. Such a move was not typical for Linux distributions - the development community adhered to an open model. However, the new approach ensured Mint's success - Linux users were finally able to work with familiar Windows applications. Over the past eight years, Mint has been one of the three most popular Linux distributions in the history of the kernel.

    The battle for the PC market

    The popularity and convenience of Ubuntu in the mid-2000s was noticed by Dell. Back in 1998, the company became the first major manufacturer to offer Linux on its entire product line. However, the open source OS support program at Dell lasted only a few years. An indirect reason for the closure was called "lack of demand."

    In 2007, the project was resumed with the release of PCs and laptops based on Ubuntu. Not the least role was played by the fact that Michael Dell himself used the distribution kit and appreciated its convenience. He contacted Canonical, and the company began preparing software for Dell computers. Computers preloaded with Ubuntu were sold in the US, UK, France and Germany.

    This signal was responded to by Asus. Companyreleased in 2007, the Asus Eee netbook. Its main feature was the pre-installed Linux system. The choice in favor of open source OS allowed the manufacturer to significantly reduce the price of the device and attract the attention of the community.

    The reaction of the community, however, was mixed because of the distribution chosen by Asus - Xandros. OS was a commercial product of the company of the same name, which did not fully comply with the principles of free software. Soon, the first Asus Eee based on Windows XP was released. Microsoft has significantly reduced licensing fees for manufacturers and secured a place in a new niche. After that, Linux began to lose its share in the new market.

    But the collapse did not happen. This is partly due to the release of Chrome OS from Google in 2009. The new OS has become the basis for another Linux-device - Chromebook. Linus Torvalds once said that the release of this laptop could be a turning point for the future of Linux on PC. Four years later, sales of these devices exceeded those of the Apple Mac in the United States. But we will talk about this in the next article.

    / Flickr / ravas51 / CC BY-SA

    Mobile era

    A number of mobile operating systems were built on the basis of Linux. For example, Nokia’s Maemo OS, released in 2005, was based on Debian and borrowed most of the GUI elements and libraries from GNOME. In 2004, the developer of one of the very first in the history of mobile operating systems - Palm OS - transferred his OS to the Linux kernel. Two independent projects emerged from this initiative - Access Linux Platform (ALP) and Palm webOS. The first one did not receive distribution, and several mobile devices from Palm and other manufacturers came out on the basis of webOS.

    More important events for the Linux community in those years took place in a completely different niche. Android Inc. was founded in California in 2003. A year after the launch, the team began to look for investors. The product on the basis of which the company initially built its strategy was the operating system for digital cameras. Not having success in this niche, the team changed focus. So the idea of ​​an Android system appeared - a competitor to Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile, who were leaders in the mobile OS segment at that time. With the first developments in this direction in 2005, the company was bought by Google.

    Already in 2006, the IT giant introducedThe first prototype of a device running a new OS for telecommunications companies. It was a mobile phone with a QWERTY keyboard and no touch screen. In 2007, the media learned that Google’s mobile OS will run on Linux, and the company is already negotiating not only with mobile operators, but also with smartphone manufacturers. The release was due in the near future.

    But in the same year, the first iPhone entered the market, which is why Google had to urgently add a touch screen to his phone and postpone the release date. Finally, in 2008, together with T-Mobile, Google introduced the T-Mobile G1 or HTC Dream, the first Android smartphone. Demand for G1 at the start exceeded forecasts, and its release marked the beginning of the history of the most popular mobile OS in the world. Dozens of Android versions and thousands of smartphones have made Linux a leader in this niche.

    Ecosystem development

    In addition to the release of new distributions in the Linux community, other important events took place in the 2000s.

    For a long time, kernel developers did not use code management systems, which made it difficult to support such a large-scale project as Linux. Therefore, in 2002, Linus Torvalds decided to switch to BitKeeper. Although software was a commercial product, Linux developers were given the opportunity to use it for free. Despite this, the community found the decision to choose an SCM system controversial.

    In 2003, BitKeeper came up with an alternative. Linus Torvalds introduced his own project for managing core development called Git. Today, Git is the most sought-after versioning tool in the development environment.

    The ecosystem of open projects was also developing. Events, production of non-commercial products, licensing activities - more and more organizations have been created around these activities since the beginning of the 90s. One of them later turned into a Linux Foundation consortium.

    The prototype of the organization was formed on the basis of the non-profit organization LI. In 2000, LI management had problems and the company was renamed Open Source Development Labs (OSDL). In 2003, Linus Torvalds officially became a member of OSDL . The consortium includes companies such as HP, Intel, IBM. Four years later, OSDL merged with another nonprofit organization, the Free Standards Group. From this alliance, the Linux Foundation was formed, which is still involved in the financing of open source projects and their standardization.

    / Flickr / Victor Bergmann / CC BY-ND

    Old Conflicts and New Horizons

    The new age has brought Linux new challenges. In 2003, the SCO Group company, which owned Unix, stated that Linux and other distributions misused the code of the original OS, which infringed copyrights. None of the SCO-initiated vessels ended up in the applicant’s favor.

    In parallel, Microsoft launched the Get the Facts advertising campaign, which openly compared Linux and server versions of Windows (of course, in favor of the latter). Microsoft's activity was probably related to the growing share of Linux in the corporate sector. In 2004, Unix and Linux occupied almost a third of this market, which seriously threatened the position of the IT giant.

    As part of a new ad campaign, the corporation claimed that the total cost of ownership of Windows Server 2003 is lower than that of Linux. The open source community has refuted these facts in every way . The scale of virtual disputes grew over the course of several years, until Microsoft turned off the campaign in 2007.

    But all this did not prevent Microsoft from establishing work with open source companies. In 2006, Novell, the owner of the rights to the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server distribution, announced a partnership with Microsoft. Equally important, this 13-year-old step could indirectly affect Microsoft's cloud strategy. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subsequently became one of the first distributions available on the corporation's cloud platform.

    If you look at the situation more broadly, it turns out that today most of the world data centers use open source OS. We'll talk more about how Linux led the cloud revolution in the next article.

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