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Linux takeup stalls on cost issues

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Expectations by users that drivers and software developed for Linux should be free like the operating system itself are stalling a wider take-up of the system, National Instruments has said.

While the test company has developed a LabView for Linux product, demand for LabView continues to come from Windows-based users, according to National Instruments ANZ managing director Tony O’Donnell.

“Being technically based on Unix, Linux is a lot more powerful than Windows but nowhere near as easy to use,” O’Donnell said.

“If our customers want it and it takes off then we will definitely pursue Linux but right now we are not even close to recouping our R&D costs for LabView for Linux.”

O’Donnell said the problem with customer expectations that LabView for Linux be free like the operating system may be solved in the medium to long term.

“Once it takes off it is possible that Linux may not remain a free operating system,” O’Donnell said.

In any case, the business plan for a more widespread adoption of Linux appears shaky, as companies cannot justify the development of tools supporting the OS if they can’t sell them.

Despite a growing critical mass in the number of engineers using Linux due to the lower development costs of open source architecture, the operating system continues to be dogged by support issues.

The server market remains a chaotic market for Linux implementation, with up to three separate consortiums vying to develop a single Linux distribution for the space.

UnitedLinux – a partnership between distributors Caldera, SuSe, Conectiva and TurboLinux – has come under widespread criticism for failing to involve Red Hat, which controls approximately half of the Linux market.

Red Hat has since announced collaborations with Dell and Oracle on a separate solution, while Sun looks like abandoning talks with UnitedLinux in favour of launching its own distribution.

The main advantage of open source software such as Linux is that development costs are significantly less than with proprietary systems because anyone can access the source code and develop their own solutions.

Users can also mix-and-match between vendors because the solutions interoperate with each other.

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