This week was punctuated by three phenomenal stories that show how free software is prospering. C++ has been one of the staples of free software for several decades. It is the programming language of choice for a lot of programmers, and it just got a brand new revision. Google has provided some much-needed backing of free software by buying Motorola Mobility and its associated patent pool. Microsoft has waived a backhanded truce flag at the Linux community by saying that it no longer sees Linux as a threat (I interpret this action a little bit differently than some might).
In this week’s edition of The Linux Week In Review, I will feature these three compelling stories:
- C++11 Gets the Green Light
- Google Buys Motorola Mobility for $12.5 Billion USD
- Microsoft No Longer Considers Linux a Threat
C++11 Gets The Green Light
As a computer programmer, I use GNU/Linux as my development platform, and I use C++ as my programming language. As such, I was excited about the news that the latest version of C++ has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization. Why is this so important? C++ is probably the the first or second most widely used programming language in the free software and GNU/Linux communities. (I think that it is probably a very close second behind its cousin, the C programming language). C++ is supported in virtually every GNU/Linux distribution by GNU’s gcc compiler. In my own C++ development, I use the following software components:
- Fedora 15 as the GNU/Linux operating system.
- Code::Blocks as the graphical Integrated Development Environment.
- GNU’s gcc as the compiler.
- Gedit to directly write and edit C++ source code.
In the past, I did try to do some of my development on a Windows-based machine, but I find the process to be much more elegant and problem-free when I program on a GNU/Linux platform. The reason for this is very simple: gcc is most native to the GNU/Linux environment. So what is new in C++11, and how will it affect free software?
Gcc has long included support for the features in the draft version of C++11, known as C++0x. Now that the final version has been ratified, full support for the final version will come before the end of 2011. This is pretty exciting since C++11 has a host of new features:
- Better performance than the older C++98 and C++03 revisions on the same hardware.
- Easier to teach and learn, while retaining expert-mode functionality.
- Improved multi-threading support.
- Generic programming support.
- Core language run-time performance enhancements.
There are a lot more improvements, and I could go into a lot more detail, but suffice it to say that C++11 will be a huge and welcome improvement on a great programming language. I can’t wait to use it myself!
Google Buys Motorola Mobility for $12.5 Billion USD
This is, by far this week’s most exciting story, for a multitude of reasons. In the last edition of TLWIR, I discussed the ongoing patent wars that surround the Android mobile operating system. Android has been on a tear, and some of Google’s competitors are petrified with fear, extremely jealous, or both. Some of these competitors have descended into the arcane craft of patent trolling to slow Android’s near-vertical ascent. Google has decided to take on former U.S. President George W. Bush’s and current U.S. President Barack H. Obama’s strategy for war: take the battle right to where your enemy lives. The message to Google’s enemies is very clear: we own you!
Now you may accuse me of hyperbole in the last paragraph, but I sincerely believe that Google is telling its enemy combatants that “we are not to be messed with”. Why? Because Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility includes 16,000+ Motorola patents! In one fell swoop, Google has gone from being a patent lightweight, to being a force that must be respected. Android is an open platform, perhaps not as open as GNU/Linux, but it is a pretty good compromise between pure free software principles and the pragmatic considerations of the business world. Google seems to GET both worlds, and it is great for someone of their might to be defending free software. All of the patent trolls will now have to think twice before suing anyone for using Android, because the threat of them simultaneously violating one of Google’s newly acquired patents is a likely one. (16,000 patents are a huge surface area that one could easily infringe on, even unknowingly). It seems much more likely now that opponents will be afraid to go after Android patent violation claims. If anything, they will try for more cross-patent licensing deals with Google.
The great thing that Google has done is to create a much higher level of certainty around Android. In the same way that GNU/Linux arrived when Fortune 500 companies began joining the Linux Foundation as paying members, Android has now arrived with a central core of protective patents, and a great central hardware platform. This won’t leave non-Motorola hardware manufacturers out in the cold. Google has pledged to keep Android an open platform, available to anyone that wants to use it.
I don’t want to spell doom and gloom for Microsoft’s WP7 and Apple’s IOS, but it may be nearing the time to just throw in the towel, and admit that it is going to be an Android world very soon.
Microsoft No Longer Considers Linux a Threat
Recent SEC filings by Microsoft have shown that the company no longer considers Linux a threat on the corporate desktop. I think that what Microsoft is really saying is this: though many companies are opting for free software alternatives from companies such as Red Hat and Novell, the vast majority of companies will still opt to use Windows for the foreseeable future. To be honest, all that I care about is that a level playing field is maintained where businesses feel free to look at all of the alternatives. If I owned my own medium to large business, Red Hat is the first company that I would call. I believe that they could offer the same services as Microsoft at a much lower price. I would also have access to the source code for all of the software that my company would use. This is a win-win situation, and Red Hat is THE expert on supporting this kind of business decision. That being said, I do not begrudge Microsoft and their success. They have the most market share on the business desktop because they provided what corporations needed at the time. It is going to take a long time for diversity to develop on the corporate desktop, but I believe that it will. I see absolutely no reason why major corporations could not migrate some or all of their desktop computers to GNU/Linux. I could even envision heterogeneous corporate environments where companies use a mixture of GNU/Linux, Apple, and Windows machines.
Microsoft is evolving as a company. In the decade and a half that I have watched their actions, I have seen them become more pragmatic. They seem to realize that GNU/Linux isn’t going anywhere: it is just too good to beat. They seem to have finally accepted that there is no way around the eventuality that people are going to run GNU/Linux and free software. So instead of seeing Linux as a threat, they are trying to learn how Windows and Linux can coexist side by side. This is progress, and I find it to be very encouraging.
One thing that I love about free software is that there are always surprises. I did not see Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility coming at all. What a brilliant move! They are definitely playing chess, not checkers, in Mountain View. Strategically, Google has set up Android to continue its assault on the traditional way that operating systems are distributed and licensed. All of this will benefit GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, and other free software operating systems. In my opinion, Google seems to get that their is a big enough pie for everyone to get a piece, but the key to success is to stop treating hardware manufacturers and consumers as if they are subjects who have no say or alternatives. The strong-handed tactics of the past don’t work very well in today’s world. Telling a hardware manufacturer that the only way to get the sweet deal on the operating system is to force the end user to use a particular web browser: forget about it! Telling a teenager that she must use search engine A when the phone right next to yours lets her use any search engine that she wants? That won’t work. Freedom and openness are the way of the future.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this edition. I really appreciate it! I look forward to seeing you again in the next edition of The Linux Week In Review.
- C++0x. (2011, August 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:13, August 16, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=C%2B%2B0x&oldid=444962336
- Proffitt, B. (2011, August 12). Microsoft disregards linux as threat. Big mistake. IT World. Retrieved August 15, 2011, from http://www.itworld.com/mobile-wireless/192879/microsoft-disregards-linux-threat-big-mistake
- Rusli, E. M. (2011, August 15). Google’s big bet on the mobile future. The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2011, from http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/googles-big-bet-on-the-mobile-future/