I started Stimulus Technologies in 1995, just 4 years after Linus Torvalds released the first version of the Linux Operating System. He wrote the operating system as "just a hobby, [it] won't be big and professional", but it has turned into something much more powerful, competing head on with industry giants like Microsoft, Apple, Novell, Sun and many others.
What is an operating system?
An operating system is a program that runs at the lowest level of all software inside your computer. It controls how memory, the CPU and other hardware is used, allows your peripherals, like the printer or USB drive to connect to your programs. Other popular and well known operating systems are Microsoft Windows (for desktops, servers and mobile devices) and Apple MacOS (for desktops) and iOS (for mobile devices). There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages of each of these operating systems.
Today, according to Nielsen Ratings, 53% of all US smart phones run the Android OS, which is based in Linux. Linux also runs 95% of all supercomputers, 33% of web servers and 20% of all other servers.
So, how did a hobby become one of the most popular operating systems in the world?
Linux is open source, which means that a programmer can look at the code, make changes and submit those changes back to the software community. The entire community benefits from enhancements made by one developer. Over the years, many individual developers, corporations and other groups have donated tens of thousands of lines of code to Linux. It is now one of the most complex and powerful operating systems in the world.
Since Linux is free, how does a company make money from Linux?
Many companies, like Redhat, Suse, and Oracle, make money from Linux by selling hardware, support or other software that runs on Linux. They use Linux as the core to their systems, but enhance the operating system to work for their customers. Google is also a great example of this. They used Linux to develop Android. Google does not charge for Android, but makes money from the apps and advertisements. Google has contributed back enhancement to the operating system, making it better for everyone else, but still making money in other ways.
Since Linux is on my smart phone, why am I still running Windows on my business desktop?
Many programs still will not run on Linux. Software vendors often write their programs to run on a single operating system, which is generally Microsoft Windows in the business environment. I believe that as cloud computing becomes more popular and capable, we will start seeing the opportunity to install Linux on more desktops. Ubuntu is very popular, and is often rated as easier to use than Windows. Linux is also known to be more secure and less vulnerable to viruses and spyware.
Stimulus Technologies uses Linux to operate its VoIP and Internet service. We have many servers running Linux that have operated effectively for 10+ years. The power of Linux is its flexibility. We have used it to run corporate networks, VoIP PBXs, mail and web servers, and even small firewalls.
If you are interested in trying out Linux for your desktop at home or work, my recommendation is that you can install Ubuntu on your desktop or buy a laptop with ChromeOS. Most likely your are using Linux everyday without knowing it. The next time you use your Android phone, buy something from Amazon, or visit Wikipedia, think of Linus and the thousands of programmers that have given their time to make it work for you.