Linux Power

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Countervailing Power

Countervailing power is the theory of political modification of markets, formulated by American economist JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH.

In the classic liberal economy, goods and services are provided and prices set by free bargaining. Modern economies give massive powers to large business corporations to bias this process, and there arise ‘countervailing’ powers in the form of trade unions, citizens’ organizations and so on, to offset business’s excessive advantage”

Oracle, IBM, NEC to Market Linux in Japan

“Major information technology firms, including Oracle Corp., IBM Corp. and NEC Corp., will set up a consortium to sell servers and systems running the Linux operating system in Japan, a financial daily said on Thursday. It would be the first time in the world that major IT firms join hands to market equipment running the free software, the Nikkei newspaper said.

The government sees that excessive reliance on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system will result in less freedom in systems development and other harmful effects because Windows’ source code is not disclosed.”


Maybe I’m connecting dots that are not connected, but it seems to me that Linux is in the early stages of becoming the effective countervailing power to Microsoft’s OS dominance. I’ve been using Ubuntu for a while and aside from reliance on some legacy Windows software, this increasingly popular desktop OS does the job nicely and is friendly enough for any user familiar with Windows. I have no doubt that a few more Ubuntu iterations will only increase its viability.

Japan’s procurement guideline embracing Linux at the server level is another crack in Microsoft’s OS dominance which has the potential to reverberate in other world markets. Currently 14% of Japan’s servers are Linux with 74% Windows.

The Linux model is the opposite of Apple’s approach of tying a proprietary OS to a proprietary machine. While it could be argued that Apple’s OS is superior to Windows, its business model is not and has effectively constrained Apple’s market share. The Linux model is the exact opposite – an open source OS usable on any platform.

The “chicken-and-egg” problem is software; if Dell’s Ubuntu offering (with others to follow) enables the market viability of Linux software variants for popular Windows programs, then and only then does Linux become a serious contender in the desktop OS market.

Some of you reading this may be thinking “Jeez, Joe is becoming a Linux fanboy!”

No, but when I see a market dominated by one company, I get worried about excessive market power and what it can lead to. I guess I’m a “free-market fanboy” and as such I am encouraged to see signs that Linux may be the emerging countervailing power to Microsoft’s OS dominance. How the elephant reacts to this flea will make for some interesting reading.

Email Joe


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