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Why Linux is like pizza

Steven reiterates the idea that massive consolidation-or the dying out of "lesser" distributions-is a necessary part of Linux's growing up. That idea was repeated in another recent commentary by Stephen Shankland. But I disagree strongly. A wide range of Linux distributions are good for Linux's growth, and the diversity itself is a part of that growth. While the Linux world hasn't seen its last consolidation, takeover, or outright abandonment, that doesn't mean that the smaller players don't have a role to play in the success of Linux.

With Red Hat and Caldera's well-funded worldwide organizations at one end of the scale and small distros such as Mettle at the other, we have a very broad spectrum out there. The best analogy I could find came out of one of the Linux Today replies to Steven's piece: Linux is like pizza.

Pizza is a known product with a widely available recipe that's subject to modifications by everyone who makes it. Everyone has access to the tools to make or customize their own, yet most folks choose to have their pizza made for them.

So who does the pizza making? Does anyone ever fret about pizza recipes "forking" because some new restaurant does it a little differently? Does the existence of well-known national brands like Pizza Hut and Domino's affect the popularity of Pizzeria Uno-or of my personal favorite, Pendeli's in Montreal? Of course not!

Same with Linux. You have your choice of:

* International "brands" that have widespread recognition, are capable of dealing with large multi-national projects, as well as their own network of partners and franchises

* Regional favorites that may not be known everywhere, but are staggeringly popular in their own area. They may be more sensitive to local needs or preferences, or simply the beneficiaries of a desire to support one's neighbors

* Special-interest variations that serve discrete niches, such as distributions for the blind, or very old computers, or palm units

Special combinations that you or your favorite software chef has concocted.

Indeed, it takes all kinds. If tomorrow one of the international pizza conglomerates were to go out of business, would anyone fret about the long-term popularity or viability of the food? Not likely.