The universe that contains GNU/Linux and Free Software rarely slows down for simple things such as holidays. This week proved to be no exception. Hewlett-Packard Corporation, the venerable U.S. corporation founded in 1939 by titans David Packard and William Hewlett, made history of sorts by releasing WebOS under an open source license. Why is this release so historic? Because it is one of the strongest ever votes of confidence for the open source concept. HP is a behemoth of a company with over 300,000 employees as of 2010.  The Federal Communications Commission also gave its strong support of open source when it sponsored an open source app challenge. Lastly, Red Hat Corporation continued its rapid ascent by reporting another quarter of outstanding profits. Here are the three fabulously fascinating stories for this week’s The Linux Week in Review:
- WebOS is Released to the Wild
- The FCC Supports Open Source
- Red Hat Posts Another Record Quarter: Proof Hat There is Money in Linux
WebOS is Released to the Wild
Meg Whitman, the new CEO of Hewlett Packard Corporation, recently announced that WebOS, HP’s Linux-based OS for mobile devices (and maybe future PCs) is being released under an open source license. It is not yet known which license it will be released under, but most believe that it will be an Apache license. Ms. Whitman stated that the company is looking at a variety of business models that will allow them to profit on WebOS. One thing that I found particularly interesting is that Whitman is taking a hard look at Red Hat’s business model with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora. Red Hat has a community-based free software operating system in the form of Fedora. Innovative technologies contributed by the vast development community are vetted by Red Hat engineers. Good features eventually make their way into Red Hat’s commercial offering: Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
My opinions: this is an extremely good move by HP, but also a very risky one. To be honest, the operating system market is becoming increasingly crowded, and Android and IOS are so very dominant. It may be difficult for HP to carve out significant market share. However, HP is a market giant that produces and sells a lot of devices. I could easily see WebOS as an operating system on printers, scanners, all-in-one devices, pcs, tablets, and mobile phones. Ms. Whitman stated that HP is pretty much out of the mobile market, but this could always change. The biggest gain that HP received by open sourcing WebOS is reducing development costs. I wish HP nothing but success in this endeavor. I discuss this topic in a lot more detail in the LibreCAST 2 here if you want to learn more: http://djere.com/audio/librecast0002.ogg
The FCC Supports Open Source
The Federal Communications Commission of the United States recently hosted a contest to create the best open source applications for community service. The contest was called the Apps for Communities Challenge. Contestants competed for part of a $100,000 prize pool. The FCC and other government organizations realize that open source software is often a cheaper method of getting the job done, and getting the mission accomplished. So how much did the prize winners win?
Ryan Resella, a U.S.-based software developer, won the first prize: $30,000.
Curtis Chang won the second prize: $20,000.
A team called Access Together won the third prize: $10,000.
Other winners also took home prize money. The general theme of all of the apps created was this: they all performed some sort of beneficial community service. For example, Ryan Resella’s app is called YAKB.us. It is a real-time notification system that informs bus riders by cell phone when their bus is coming, and where it currently is on its route. Growing up in a large city myself, and having made ample use of the public transportation system, I realize what I powerful tool YAKB.us could be. Great work to all of the winners of the Apps for Communities Challenge prizes!
Red Hat Posts Another Record Quarter: Proof Hat There is Money in Linux
Red Hat Corporation continues its torrid pace of profit growth. The fact that Red Hat can be so profitable when their business model is based on open source software is great news for all Linux businesses. In other words, the fact that Red Hat is still growing means that there are a lot of companies, businesses, and individuals out there that need Linux services. Red Hat can’t do it all, so Red Hat’s growth shows that there are ample opportunities to capitalize on Linux expertise in today’s economy. How well did Red Hat perform? Their 3rd quarter net income rose 47%! Red Hat’s stock did slightly as they lowered profit outlooks for the current quarter. However, Red Hat’s financials look great on balance.
I’m happy to see Red Hat’s great results. They have had such consistent success that it almost seems routine. I told my friend Andrew that Red Hat’s success is great news for BeginLinux.com because BeginLinux is basically in the same business as Red Hat: providing training and support for Linux. Red Hat is a shining example of the fact that with discipline and strategic excellence, there is no limit to the success that a company can attain with Linux.
As 2011, comes to a close, open source and free software are as successful as they have ever been. However, we in the free software community have to remain vigilant to ensure that this success continues. Nothing can ever be taken for granted.
Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I look forward to seeing you again in the next The Linux Week in Review.
 Cooney, Michael. FCC doles out $100K to open source community apps challenge winners. http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/fcc-doles-out-100k-open-source-community-apps-challenge-winners
 Associated Press. Red Hat 3rd-qtr profit, revenue grow; shares sink. http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2011/12/19/red_hat_3rd_qtr_profit_revenue_grow_shares_sink/
 Hewlett-Packard. (2011, December 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:00, December 20, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hewlett-Packard&oldid=466319316