So, the financial world is collapsing around us. After house prices in UK have sky-rocketed for years, pricing core workers (doctors, nurses, ambulance crews, police and firefighters) and everyone beneath high earners out of the property market, we ‘re now in a situation where house prices are falling through the floor but interest rates are so high people can’t afford mortgages, houses are being re-possessed, the unemployment figures are at their highest in 10 years, the biggest financial institutions in the world are going bankrupt and everyone is feeling the pinch. The capitalist world is facing global recession, aka financial armageddon. The UK media are calling it the Credit Crunch. I don’t know what it’s being referred to elsewhere or how it’s effects are being felt outside of the UK and USA. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to have affected the IT market too much yet, but it will. How much, I don’t know, the world relies on IT these days but it will pinch and some of us will be made redundant.
So where does this leave our beloved Linux, Open Source and Free Software communities? The major IT vendors and commercial software houses are sure to cut jobs. According to Greg Kroah-Hartman, 72.6% of kernel contributions are sponsored by major IT vendors (Intel, Red Hat, IBM, Novell etc). 17% are from amateurs and 10.2 are either unknown or independent consultants. There must be 0.2% somewhere else for those of you who are counting. I would imagine the contributions for something like GNOME would be a lot heavier in favour of amateurs and independent contributors.
I suspect, and I appreciate I am economically naive, that while the big vendors might have to cut jobs and some of them might well be technical jobs focused on the smaller markets (ie Linux), I would expect that a good proportion might be in rank and file clerical, sales, support, marketing and middle-management, not so much in technical engineering.
So, we might lose some Linux developers in the major companies, but note this: many people, when they use or work on anything other than the market-share leading operating system do so because they want to. Would leaving a job mean that somebody stops doing something they wanted to do in the first place? I don’t think so, but then it is possible that if you lose a job, you’re going to have to replace it as quickly as possible and that might be with something which doesn’t allow you the time or opportunity to contribute.
While companies all around the world are planning to shed jobs and cut costs, contributing to Linux, Open Source and Free Software only cost one thing: time. Human endeavour costs nothing and it’s that which means that Linux won’t go away in a bad financial climate or when when the biggest software vendor in the world tries to scare people away by claiming that it’s competitor violates it’s patents but won’t say what those patents are. If, hypothetically, the financial world came to a standstill tomorrow, Linux would keep going. Microsoft wouldn’t be able to pay their developers and neither would Red Hat, but you can’t develop Windows unless you work for Microsoft. You can develop on Linux whether you get paid or not because the code is free and Free. Both gratis and libre.
If you run a company or organisation and you need to reduce costs, Linux and all of it’s software costs nothing. Windows costs money, even when it comes on the computer and Microsoft Office costs hundreds. If your PCs are ageing and you need to replace them, Linux doesn’t require anywhere near the resources Windows does, the comparison between Linux and Windows Vista’s hardware requirements are almost laughable and Linux is still faster, which means that you don’t need to buy a new PC and your old PC will be faster under Linux. Linux doesn’t have a virus problem, or a malware problem so you don’t need to buy anti-virus. Linux doesn’t have to defragment it’s disks so you don’t have to do it. In Linux, all of the available software is installable from inside the one program, you don’t have to download all of your applications from a hundred different places and install each one independently. Linux will update all of your software in one go every time there is a newer version so you don’t have to go to Windows Update and then update Adobe Acrobat and Real Player and Nero and Winzip and Quicktime and iTunes and Flash and everything else, Linux will update them all at the same time if there is an update. Linux software doesn’t nag you to buy it. Linux software doesn’t have advertisements. Linux software doesn’t install an icon in your taskbar that sits there using up your RAM. Linux doesn’t have problems with porn pop-ups. Linux web browsers don’t have the security problems that Internet Explorer has…
Oh, I’m sorry, I digress. In these harsh financial times, which are about to get a lot harsher and stay that way for another 2 years or so, Linux will save you money and won’t stop getting better when money gets tight.
Credit crunch? What credit crunch? A healthy dose of idealism is all you need.