By Tom Henkel, Gartner Analyst
Economic downturns separate the strong companies from the weak,
and the Linux market will be no exception to this rule.
The cycle has played out many times in the high-tech industry:
• A new technology starts to
• A large field of new
companies emerges with high hopes of addressing the new business
• The number of companies that
offer fundamentally the same product quickly exceeds demand.
• Most of the hopeful
• The market contracts around
a smaller field of players that have demonstrated their viability for a
variety of reasons.
That is what has happened in the case of Linux, and Gartner has always
advised companies to proceed cautiously in the face of the enormous hype.
But Linux enthusiasm is not fading away entirely--although it's probably
quickly approaching the "trough of disillusionment" in the Gartner Hype
Cycle. Some reassessment of where Linux really fits into an enterprise's IT
infrastructure was inevitable.
The current level of activity suggests the opportunity for Linux has not yet
peaked. Still, the route to success will become much more complicated (and
expensive) for Linux distributors. Providing obvious added value will become
critical and will probably involve an operating system/middleware software
stack, not just operating system distribution.
Gartner continues to believe that application providers will not support
every Linux distribution on earth. An independent software company will test
only a small number of distributions, and getting on that short list will be
a critical challenge for all Linux distributors. For companies, that will
prove an expensive undertaking, especially because venture capital has
dwindled, if not evaporated.
As with the Internet boom, the Linux market has shown itself to be subject
to the basic reality of capitalism--to survive, sooner or later a company
must turn a profit. Some Linux distributors will likely fail. Some will
merge. Others will likely be acquired by the bigger server companies. Red Hat
Software has gained the most brand recognition, but others have established
some level of recognition and will probably survive.
As with Unix, the market can sustain three, maybe four,
different Linux distributors, along with a perhaps few niche players.
(For related commentary on the Linux operating system, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights
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