Linux needs to do more for programmers

Much as I hate to admit it, Microsoft does some things better, much better, than Linux. Number one with a bullet is how Microsoft helps programmers and ISVs (independent software vendors). MSDN (Microsoft Software Developer Network) is a wonderful online developer resource. Linux has had nothing to compare.

True, there is the Linux Developer Network, which, when it began, looked like it would be the Linux equivalent of MSDN, but it hasn't lived up to its promise. And, I can't overlook the Linux Foundation's Linux training classes. But, if I'm an ISV and I want to write software for Linux, I'm still going to need to piece together a lot of it by myself.

For example, Red Hat does a fine job of helping an ISV get its product to market and Novell does well at helping developers to run their programs on its platforms. Indeed, thanks to Mono, Linux programmers can write software that will run on both Windows and Linux.

But, let's say I'm an ISV and I want to write a program that will run on RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server), and Ubuntu Server. Now, I've got problems. Sure it can be done. But, it's not easy to do unless you're already a Linux expert. Writing for the Linux desktop can be even more of a pain. Again, it's quite doable, but it's a difficult learning curve and there's not a lot of organized help out there.

Take, for instance, Google's Android. Android is becoming the hot smartphone platform since Apple is locking out many ISVs from the iPhone SDK (software development kit). Great news for would-be embedded Linux developers right? Wrong. As my compadre Brian Proffitt points out, Google keeps Android development very in-house and even though Google has promised that Android will work closer with the Linux kernel developers, many an Android developer would agree that you almost need to have your office in Mountain View, CA, next door to Google by choice, to keep up with Android development.

So what can be done? Well, I'd like to see more done with LDN and the Linux Foundation's training classes for starters. I'd also like to see all the Linux vendors, except for Novell which seems to be doing pretty well at it already, make more of an effort to work with ISVs.

I'd also welcome a conference devoted to the concerns of Linux ISVs. In a recent LinkedIn conversation about OS/2, my friend and fellow technology writer Esther Schindler pointed out that one reason why OS/2 didn't make it was because "IBM really fumbled when it came to ISV relations. At one point I suggested to an IBM Exec (sorry I don't remember which one) that the company have a developer conference, and to my surprise I got a 'Wow, we hadn't thought of that!" response.'"

Sure, there are lots of conferences for particular programs, such as GUADEC (GNOME Users' And Developers' European Conference) and distributions, Red Hat Summit, but, as far as I know, there's no major conference to introduce ISVs from outside Linux into Linux. I think it's past time for one.

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