The Adventures of Joshua Judson Rosen
(action man)

[ sections: VisualIDs | art | movies | everything ]

Wed, 15 Dec 2010

11:52: Linux has won--without needing anyone to notice.

Someone in my local LUG remarked:

So, while I've been slaving away in the world of corporate IT, it appears Linux has quietly won the OS war. I just didn't notice. Linux may already be out-shipping Microsoft Windows.

... noting that it's actually quite difficult, if not impossible, to buy a TV that's not running Linux internally anymore.

Another member further remarked on the general prevalence of Linux in the embedded market--wondering, quasi-ironically, if maybe even his microwave oven might be Linux-based without him knowing. It's actually not beyond the realm of believability--Electrolux does actually have a fridge that's Linux-based.

Several years ago, I was at the movie-theatre down in Lowell, MA, with a friend who had a thing for photo-booths, when I discovered that the photo-booth there was running Red Hat Linux.

`Embedded Linux' was already pretty pervasive, even at that point-- having worked its way into a lot of types of devices that people don't even expect to be `digital' inside, let alone be `computers': photo-booths, A/V amplifiers and other stereo equipment, batteries, telephones (well before Android), the telephone network....

Now it's also refrigerators, televisions, toys for small children, e-Books, motorcycles, guitars, personal audio-players, video games....

As Mark Weiser wrote in `The computer for the 21st Century':

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

They're the things that happen without anyone noticing that they happened--changes that become visible only in retrospective.

And it's by design, actually.

Part of what's going on here is that more and more `mundane' objects are advancing technologically and becoming `smart'; and, when they do, they use Linux--because Linux is the thing that's making that advance possible in the first place. Develop your own thing from scratch? Pay to license something more obscure, and get a smaller talent-pool? Linux is a commodity. You're not supposed to notice when it gets used, just like you're not supposed to notice when 5-volt circuits (with connectors made by... what manufacturer?) get used.

At least, that's my perspective from the inside--that's why my groups have been shipping Linux for the past decade.

The amazing thing is that Linux-uptake just seems to keep accelerating....