Who writes Linux: Big Business

The Linux Foundation has just released a new report on who writes Linux (PDF), and guess what? Linux isn't written by lonely nerds hiding out in their parents' basements. It's written by people working for major companies -- many of them businesses that you probably don't associate with Linux. 

To be exact, while 18.2% of Linux is written by people who aren't working for a company, and 7.6% is created by programmers who don't give a company affiliation, everything else is written by someone who's getting paid to create Linux. From top to bottom, of the companies that have contributed more than 1% of the current Linux kernel, the list looks like this:

  1. Red Hat: 12.3%
  2. IBM: 7.6%
  3. Novell: 7.6%
  4. Intel: 5.3%
  5. Independent consultant: 2.5%
  6. Oracle: 2.4%
  7. Linux Foundation: 1.6%
  8. SGI 1.6%
  9. Parallels 1.3%
  10. Renesas Technology: 1.3%
  11. Academia: 1.2%
  12. Fujitsu: 1.1%
  13. MontaVista: 1.1%
  14. MIPS Technologies: 1.1%
  15. Analog Devices: 1.0%
  16. HP: 1.0%

Some of those names, like Red Hat, Novell, and the Linux Foundation, will come as no surprise to anyone who follows Linux. Others like Analog Devices, MIPS Technologies, and Renesas Technology might puzzle you at first until you know that they're chip companies; while we often think of Linux in terms of servers and desktops, it plays an enormous role in embedded computing devices from DVR (digital video recorders) to GPS devices to your car's engine.

But what I'd like to draw the attention of everyone who thinks of Linux as being written by techies for techies to is that major computer companies that everyone knows, like IBM, Intel, Oracle, Fujitsu, and HP, also spend hundreds of millions in making Linux better. Those companies aren't doing this because they think Linux is "cool"; they're investing in it because Linux makes good, hard business sense for traditional hardware and software companies.

Is it any wonder that a recent Foote Research IT job survey (PDF) revealed that Linux came in number two in its list of hot non-certified job skills? Linux, and Linux jobs, are one of the few growth areas left in our stagnant economy.

You see, Linux isn't just some hobby, nor is it just being used by some businesses that specialize in it. No, Linux is made by big business for big business, and it has been for some time.

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