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Linux Ecosystem Is Worth $25 Billion

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  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:46AM (#25441731) Journal

    In a different sense, the question is as simple as answering this one: How much is your business worth?

  • In related news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeff Hornby (211519) <jthornby@@@sympatico...ca> on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:51AM (#25441799) Homepage

    in a study done by me, my 11 year old jeep is also worth $25 billion.

    I wonder how much the Linux ecosystem would be worth if it were valued by an organization that didn't have a vested interest.

  • Air (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:03PM (#25442005) Homepage Journal

    How much is air worth?

    It's sad that there are so many people who worship the almighty dollar that they have to put a price on everything.

    Linux, like air, is priceless. Saying it is worth $n devalues it.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:07PM (#25442073) Journal
    Actually, that's a pretty good measure of value. Google had three choices:
    1. Buy an OS from someone.
    2. Develop their own OS.
    3. Use an open source OS.

    The value of the open source OS, to them, is the cost of option 1 or 2, minus the cost of developing the extra stuff they need on top of it.

  • Simply Put (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:07PM (#25442075)
    Linux is priceless in value precisely because it is F/OSS
  • by Hikaru79 (832891) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:12PM (#25442129) Homepage
    Even let's say that the $25B value is accurate and represents something meaningful, it seems to be a pretty depressing number for the entire ecosystem, isn't it? Microsoft as a publicly traded company alone is currently worth $216.11B and I'm sure we can all agree that the entire Windows "ecosystem" is worth at least that much over again. So the Linux ecosystem is worth, what, 5% of Microsoft's value? And this is at a time when Linux is at a historic "high" while Microsoft is in a pretty firm slump...

    Not that I think this is an accurate or meaningful number.
  • by theaveng (1243528) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:12PM (#25442133)

    The answer to this question is the same answer to "How much money is lost when people download music?"

    "Whatever they are willing to pay."

    If, like me, they are not willing to pay anything for either Britney Spears' latest CD, or the latest Linux distro, then the value is nothing. $0.00. But the record companies always assume everyone who downloads Britney is a "lost sale", and they publish huge outlandish figures for how much value they think they've lost. I suspect the Linux estimators will make the same crucial error in their estimates. Of those who download "free" music, or Linux, probably only 10% would be willing to pay for it.

    That tendency to avoid spending money needs to be accounted for, otherwise the value estimates are meaningless.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:17PM (#25442205)

    Exactly.

    If linux were suddenly to 'go away', how much would it cost to license, install, configure, and support the entire business world with millions of copies of Server 2008?

    Answer - a heckuva lot more than 25B.

    Back to the abacus to make up some new numbers...

  • by pclminion (145572) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:17PM (#25442211)

    If the entire Linux technology sphere magically vanished overnight (don't ask me how), would the damage to the economy be in excess of $25 billion? Just because there's no liquidity doesn't mean there's no value.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:18PM (#25442215) Homepage


    Value can only be attributed towards things that can be bought and sold.

    Pure nonsense. Value can be attributed to things that produce value. Would you say the Brooklyn Bridge is worth nothing because it can't be bought or sold? I'd hope not.

    Linux, like the Brooklyn Bridge produces economic value. Economists assign value to things that aren't bought and sold all the time. You can argue about how to go about this (and I'm certainly not qualified to do even that), but it's silly to say you can't give it a dollar value simply because nobody can "own" it.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:19PM (#25442231) Homepage Journal

    Usually, I share your cynicism about these breathless, fact-free "open source is gaining ground!" stories. But here your logic is way off. If this were just some pundit working for the Linux foundation making the usual "expert" assertions, your criticism would be valid. But this is a report based on real-world figures, and these figures deserve to be evaluated on their own merit. The fact that the people who wrote the report have a bias should make you look out for selective use of data, but doesn't automatically destroy the report's credibility.

  • Re:Air (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:27PM (#25442337) Homepage Journal

    Putting a price on the priceless devalues it. "Priceless" means it has infinite value, and any dollar amount put on your infinitely useful object/endeavor/material brings its value DOWN.

    There is more to life than money.

  • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gnu. o r g> on Monday October 20, 2008 @12:52PM (#25442733) Homepage

    Value can be attributed to things that produce value.

    l = []; l.append(l); print l. Your definition is circular.

    Value is a measure of how much we want or like something. I value personal liberties. I value economic liberties. I value food, clean air, sex, internet, staple guns, learning new things, intellect and reason in myself and others, science and lots of other things.

    Value influences how much we're willing to give up to get the thing we value. If I had to choose between a house to live in and air to breath, I'd choose the air. If I had to choose between sex and internet, I'd choose sex. If I had to choose between 100$ and a copy of GH3+controller, I'd choose Guitar Hero. If I had to choose between 200$ and two Guitar Hero packs, I might choose the money, or I might choose the GH packs in hope of a resale.

    Money has value for society because it allows us to break symmetry: I don't have to write code for the baker to get his bread. It has value to the individual (or the organization) because we all agree to trade it for other things we value.

    Asking for the value of Linux is a vague question. The value of Linux what? The Copyrights? Not sure; even if everybody handed copyright on all FOSS code to a buyer, it's still FOSS, so we could just fork it and continue doing what we do. The buyer could allow itself to link GPL-incompatible code to _its_ GPL-licensed code. Or go all-the-way proprietary. How large a competitive advantage is that going to give? Not much, I think.

    Linux use? To me, being able to use Linux is more valuable than being able to use Windows. I'm a member of our minority group on that. To some people, there's a big dollar amount [of saved money] attached to using Linux instead of $OS. Measure all those amounts well and add them up, and you may end up with a number that actually means something and has a relationship to reality.

    An interesting bit from TFA:

    In 2008, IDC forecast that the Linux ecosystem would be worth $49 billion by 2011. That report coincidentally was sponsored by the Linux Foundation as well.

    Is that like a Gartner report saying Vista is worth $BIGNUM monies? Because from here I can't tell the difference, so someone please spell it out for me.

    (#define Linux GNU/Linux or Linux, as appropriate)

    -- Jonas K

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday October 20, 2008 @01:22PM (#25443195) Journal

    The problem that remains, though is: just because you can think up a random number to put on something, doesn't mean it's the right number.

    And if economists were that good at calculating the values, the USSR would still be going strong and would have the strongest economy in the world. After all, that was the whole idea: instead of letting the free market work it out by trial and error, have a handful of smart guys who calculate exactly how many bycicles are needed and exactly how much should they cost. It should be much more efficient, right? It didn't quite work out that way.

    So, yes, some people like to put a dollar value on anything in sight. It doesn't mean it's the right one.

    The only moment when you can know the real value, is, yes, when you can apply what we knew at least since Publilius Syrus: "Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it." As long as you can't have a purchaser, that value you put on it is just a pointless abstraction. Again, I know that some people love to paint the whole world in dollar worths, but it doesn't mean it actually means anything or that you can do anything with that number.

    E.g., they even put a $ worth on a human life. What _can_ you do with that number? Can I come shoot you if I have that money on hand to pay as weregeld? Can I buy you? Or what? Exactly what _does_ that number tell me?

    In practice it's just an abstraction used to handwave stuff like "see, the legal speed on highways should by higher/lower because it means X million dollars in lost lives, vs Y million gained in commerce along that road." But it's ultimately just a made up excuse, and usually working backwards from the conclusion one wants to an acceptable excuse for it.

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