December 11, 2003

UserLinux: Repairing the Economic Paradigm of Enterprise Linux

Enterprise users have embraced GNU/Linux. But the very aspects that make Linux desirable, its low cost, Open Source nature, and the way it gives
customers more control over their software, are under attack by Linux vendors bent on increasing shareholder value. Businesses are paying more as
Linux distributions demand a per-seat cost and service lock-in for software that they didn't develop and that others support. Many of the early
adopters of Linux are small but profitable industries with extremely sophisticated needs, and commercial Linux distributors simply can't afford to pay
much attention to them while larger markets are waiting.

This has hampered the adoption of Linux. For example, a very large multinational bank recently informed me that they had called off a 10,000-system
Linux deployment because "Linux is now more expensive than Windows". An ISP complained that the cost of Enterprise Linux is greater than the annual
profit of one of his servers.

We, the Free Software developers, created this software to empower everyone, and for everyone to share. But today's Enterprise Linux is a lock-in
play, designed to draw the customer into expensive subscriptions and single-vendor service. Customers are made to agree not to pass service bulletins
on to others. While this is within the letter of the licenses that we crafted for our software, it's outside of their spirit. We have no problem with
payment for service, when service is rendered. But the $1000 per year or greater that many customers now pay for their Linux systems goes not for
service, but for a brand and the endorsement of a few application providers like Oracle.

The economics of Open Source work worst for commercial Linux distributions. They are attempting to generate profit from a product that they don't own,
and to which they can't add much value without departing from the factors that make Linux desirable. This has forced even the best of them to depart
from the ethos of Open Source with lock-in plays or pay-per-seat proprietary content. And the worst of them used to be called Caldera.



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