Unix vs. Linux

September 26th, 2007 by Ralf S. Engelschall

A large part of the world listens carefully to every word spreaded by analysts like Gartner, Forrester, etc. So much the worse those analysts still have not stopped using confusing wordings all the time:

“I expect that, around 2009, we will have seen the last application developed specifically for Unix, after which no applications will be developed just for that operating system, though updates to existing applications will continue for some time to come,” George Weiss, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, according to eWeek, told attendees in his presentation titled “Planning a Third-Generation Linux Enterprise”, at Gartner‘s annual Open Source Summit at September 20th, 2007.

There are two very annoying statements embedded here: 1. “Unix is a single/particular operating system” and 2. “Linux is not Unix”. Hmmm… first, there is the original “UNIX (R)”, which today is a registered trademark of The Open Group and the corresponding particular implementation is what AT&T/USL created, Novell bought and then finally sold to SCO. Since years this is no longer a particular operating system, it is a definition of an operating system. Additionally, decades ago the term “Unix” was coined, too. This is a generic term for labeling all classes of operating system with a UNIX/POSIX/SUS-style API and without having to use the registred label UNIX(R) which even today is still partly associated with the original AT&T Unix implementation.

So, Gartner, Unix is not an operating system, it is a large set of similar but different enough operating systems. And, sorry, Linux is a member of this larger class of Unix operating systems — even if the Linux folks sometimes do not wish to believe this theirself ;-) So, it is IMHO silly and very confusing to tell people something like “Unix is dead, long live Linux”. Independent whether this is already silly from a bare technical point of view, this is as confusing as you would tell them “Planets are dead, long live the Earth”.

If anybody not Gartner would tell something like this, it would be harmless. Unfortunately, it isn’t in the case of Gartner as they have great press attention and their statements are copied and repeated a thousand times around the globe and at the end too many people even believe exactly what they were told. So I would really like to see Gartner preparing their IT statements more carefully in order to be more precise and less confusing…

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