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What's The Linux Kernel Worth?

timothy posted about 10 years ago | from the tree-falls-in-forest-makes-sound dept.

The Almighty Buck 376

schneelocke writes "What's the value of the Linux kernel? After an offer by one Jeff V. Merkey to pay 50K USD for a BSD-licensed copy of Linux, David Wheeler does some calculations and comes up with an estimate of 612M USD." Wheeler has come up with a number of interesting software-worth estimates and other quantified facts about Free software; since some aspects involve ineffables and hypotheticals, the details can be argued, but he provides a good framework with SLOCCount.

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Nothing (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 10 years ago | (#10514097)

By my calculations, the Linux kernel is worth: nothing.

Before you get your tights in a twist, just listen to me for a moment. The value of a product in a capitalistic system is determined by what the market is willing to bear. Yet it is not worth anything if the developers are not willing to sell it at what the market demands. Thus we have a gap. The market would probably be willing to bear a few million (perhaps as high as 50 million) dollars for the Linux IP. Yet it seems that the developers would demand a price in the range of 612 million.

The end result is that the Linux kernel has no market value what so ever. The developers won't sell it at the market's price, and the market won't buy it at the developers price.

Re:Nothing (5, Insightful)

millwall (622730) | about 10 years ago | (#10514150)

The end result is that the Linux kernel has no market value what so ever. The developers won't sell it at the market's price, and the market won't buy it at the developers price.

This is not quite true. The market value is what the market would buy the product for, if it WAS for sale.

Imagine that you have a car, which you for whatever reason don't want to sell at the moment. This doesn't leave your car with "no market value". The market value is still what the market would have bought it for if it was for sale.

Re:Nothing (5, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 10 years ago | (#10514243)

You are asuming that there IS a market. The OP stated that there is currently no market for linux kernels, because there is only one potential buyer and one potential seller who cant agree on a price --> no trade, no market, no market price.

In your example there is a market for collector cars which can be used to find a market price.

But it would be better to say "priceless" than "nothing"

Re:Nothing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514253)

There's no market for his (one) car either. There is a market for cars however, just like there is a market for software, and operating systems in particular.

Re:Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514444)

But there is a market for cars identical (or nearly so) to his. Linux is unique.

Re: Nothing (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 10 years ago | (#10514156)


> The end result is that the Linux kernel has no market value what so ever. The developers won't sell it at the market's price, and the market won't buy it at the developers price.

Yeah, I'm waiting for SCOX [yahoo.com] to come down off its high horse before I buy it, too.

Re:Nothing (1)

mirko (198274) | about 10 years ago | (#10514163)

Let's take the number of people who actually coded the Linux kernel and for each of them, determine how long they coded.
Also add the number of people who tested it and reported some bug or requested new features...
In the end, compare these values with what it costed companies such as Sun, Apple or Microsoft and you'll get its actual cost...
But now, I totally follow your point when it comes to its price.

Re:Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514302)

Are you on crack?

By this logic, an Atari 2600 would be worth at least a half-million. My copy of Zork I would be worth over $80K (assume that Meretzky and Lebling were hired by a games company for a year each...).

Re:Nothing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514456)

That guy doesn't want just one Atari 2600 or a single binary of Zork I for use on one computer. He want's the design and unlimited redistribution and modification rights. That would mean giving up almost all power that the GPL has, so they would have to price it like a complete "loss" of their product. I wouldn't even start to think about numbers with less than 10 digits.

Re:Nothing (1)

airrage (514164) | about 10 years ago | (#10514447)

In the end, compare these values with what it costed companies such as Sun, Apple or Microsoft and you'll get its actual cost...

Ah, the cost is going to actually be higher for Linux due to some paradoxes within Economics, opportunity cost, economies of scale. But I'm quite sure you would have come to the same conclusion. Not really a good way to compare the two ....

Re:Nothing (1)

fracai (796392) | about 10 years ago | (#10514168)

Aren't the developers demanding a price of nothing?
The estimate is based on the the equivalent value. ie. What the software is worth if it was developed under a commercial environment with R&D, de-bugging, etc. with developers being payed by the hour or line of code.
He also takes into account things like developer experience and code complexity.

I wonder what the value of Windows or OS X would be under his model. Or if either company sold them right now for that matter.

The great thing about first posting is you don't have to read the article. I didn't just write that on a /. board did I?

Re:Nothing (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | about 10 years ago | (#10514336)

The discussion based on the offer is what would it be worth in a binary-only form under a BSD-style license. The developers are willing to accept a price of $0 for the code under a GPL license, but are not willing to sell at any price under a less restrictive license. Hence, there is no asking price for the actual product demanded, as it is explicitly not for sale. Since there is only 1 person in the potential market at this point, and there has been only one offer, with no counter offer (unless you count "infinity dollars" as a valid asking price), there is not enough data to set a reasonable market price for the product.

Estimating based on what it would cost in a commercial environment is also flawed, because there are too many variables to consider. If it were developed in, say, Silicon Valley, each programmer's hourly rate would probably approach $100. If it were developed in, say, Boise, Idaho, the hourly rate for these programmers would probably be in the neighborhood of $20 to $30. There is also development models, management, total personnel required, etc. These things will all vary depending on the nature of the business, what kind of timelines they were looking at, who the management team was, etc.

The bottom line is, since the developers have always been paid nothing for their work (except those that are being sponsored by commercial entities), the total value of their time put into the project is $0. Sure, you could try and put it in terms of an opportunity cost to the developer, but that sort of thing leads to inflated valuations, since in all likelihood if these guys weren't writing the code in their spare time, they would be doing some other hobby that doesn't pay them anything instead.

The bottom line here is, the only time that you can assign a value to is the time that someone actually received a wage for. This is a small minority of the overall code base, so by that method the code would not be worth much at all.

Therefore, all we are left to consider is whether or not Linux is a good value to the consumer. Generally speaking, a good value to the consumer is one in which they extract more value out of the product then what they paid for it. Since most people get Linux for free, it doesn't take much to get more than what you paid out of it, especially if you use it in a business context. There are those, of course, who will get negative value out of it (they get frustrated and throw the computer out the window, for example), but the vast majority of users will get a net positive value out of the product. Putting a dollar amount on that value is difficult, though.

Re:Nothing (1)

benasselstine (764316) | about 10 years ago | (#10514176)

The end result is that companies are selling products that contain the linux kernel. Although it is free of charge, the linux kernel adds value to their products. Does it add 612 million dollars to the value of their product? no. But it certainly adds something.

Re:Nothing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514196)

Damn I guess I need to return my Porsche.

Re:Nothing (5, Insightful)

wcbarksdale (621327) | about 10 years ago | (#10514198)

So the Mona Lisa [wikipedia.org] is worth nothing, because the Louvre isn't willing to sell it?

Re:Nothing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514212)

Isn't that what "priceless" means?

Re:Nothing (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 10 years ago | (#10514254)

That's kind of a paradox - the kernel is definitely of value to me because it makes my x86 hardware perform useful function, streaming audio servers, radio receiver controllers, development platform, etc. But it's the very fact that it's 1) open code, and 2) freely available as downloadable ISO's that makes it preferable to Msft with their customer controls and marketing BS. It might be more accurate to say the kernel is worth nothing in monitary units to Linus since he's not collecting a royalty from each user deriving utility from each installation like BillG & Co. do for Windows. However Linus could be collecting other intangible benefits like fame, satisfaction of creation, etc. But's it's definitly worth something to me, and would pay a fee if it wasn't freely available. Just not a King's ransom.

Priceless : ) (1)

essreenim (647659) | about 10 years ago | (#10514259)

..thats its value for me.
Life-time (eternal) access to the best OS kernel in the world - for free!!

Re:Nothing (1)

zoloto (586738) | about 10 years ago | (#10514263)

Very true. I remember this story [informit.com] from a while ago. It says that linux is worth roughly over 1 Billion dollars. Check out the math with me...

but that's totaling all the software on the disc you'd be getting from a distro. I can't find the article that origionally said this.

Voodoo Economics Again? (3, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | about 10 years ago | (#10514315)

Are we entering voodoo economics again? The value of a good (e.g. IBM p690) or service (e.g. labor) is principally determined by the market when the market is relatively free. The forces that determine the dollar value are incredibly complex, and there is no way for a supercomputer or a human being to model them accurately.

We can, to some extent, model the overall economy and predict economic growth, but such models are imprecise. Further, modeling the overall economy is easier than predicting the precise value of a particular good or service because the overall economy is a lumped parameter, the net result of a multitude of forces. Consider predicting the price of an individual stock versus predicting the price of the S&P 500. The latter is hard but roughly do-able; the former is impossible.

So, attempting to calculate the value of the Linux kernel is just another exercise in voodoo economics (tm).

If we really could calculate precisely the value of the Linux kernel, then the implications would be enormous. We could then calculate the true price of all goods and services in the USA. There would be no need for a market economy. The government could then control the economy in much the same fashion that Lenin proposed. The government could then give everyone a number representing each person's correct salary and, also, assign the correct price to everything. There would be no unemployment or recession.

Nirvana.

Re:Nothing (1)

DenDave (700621) | about 10 years ago | (#10514355)

Failing that I would offer that even if someone acquired a BSD licensed kernel, what good would it do him as a product since he is a stand alone develloper who competes against the rest of Linux devellopment ... it's not just about the market, it's also about the production model, the Open Source model as opposed to closing the dev'ing to a limited group.

Priceless... essentially (3, Interesting)

Gopal.V (532678) | about 10 years ago | (#10514363)

  • Windows XP - 200 USD .
  • Windows 2000 Professional - 290 USD
  • Mac OS X - 120 USD

Linux - priceless .

Of course, unless you consider all those hours you pored over google results and irc chats about *that* bug in the 2.2 kernel, waay back in '99.

I've invested too much time and effort in Linux to consider it "Free" in an economic sense. But , yeah it pays to be the admin , not developers.
But, I've sent my share of patches ....

Re:Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514393)

Actually you're wrong. The PRICE is determined by the market--mostly--in the kernel's exchange value relative to the standard commodity called money. VALUE is a composite of the kernel's usefulness and what it can be traded for. The use value of the linux kernel is quite high, but the exchange value is very low.

Re:Nothing (1)

iplayfast (166447) | about 10 years ago | (#10514442)

The value of a product in a capitalistic system is determined by what the market is willing to bear.

The market is willing to bear a lot for the Linux kernel. It is willing to bear programmers time (and pay them for it). It is willing to bear costs of promotion and advertisment. It is willing to bear spending the time to develop it in the first place. You need to expand your view of the market to be beyond the people who would potentionally (sp) buy the software, to include those that buy and use it in other ways then just money.

This is shown by the unwillingness of the Linux developers to sell their rights to use the software in whatever way they want. The developers sell the price for what the market demands. Their price is market particpation and joining of the development effort.

Don't know (1)

kc0re (739168) | about 10 years ago | (#10514108)

I wouldn't know what to do with it, but can you "buy" it? It's open source, anyone can change it... What would happen if Microsoft "bought" it. Or bought the rights to it.. Just some what if's.

Easy answer... (1)

GedConk (778704) | about 10 years ago | (#10514177)

The worst that could happen is a fork and a name change.

Re:Don't know (1)

Deorus (811828) | about 10 years ago | (#10514463)

You can buy the kernel, but not change its license. Why? GPL forces you to stick with the same license in its current or optionally any newer version. Only by agreeing with everyone who contributed with code to the kernel they could change the license, and I don't think everyone would agree with that besides SCO (if they really have any code in there :-P).

ooooh (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 10 years ago | (#10514109)

612million / [Developers.Count] = $650 (per machine)

Who woulda thunk it..... ;)

sloccount is no measure to go by (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514113)

sloccount is no measure to go by, its calcuations have no correlation to any software project i have worked on -- its output is mere fantasy!

perhaps... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514117)

we should get a better estimate by asking the nice folks at SCO. They seem to know much about this.

You just can't... (5, Funny)

numbware (691928) | about 10 years ago | (#10514125)

... put a price on it. Linux is priceless. Mac OSX is $50.00. Windows is a paperclip and a bubblegum wrapper.

Re:You just can't... (2, Funny)

eln (21727) | about 10 years ago | (#10514410)

I thought Windows was the cost of a blank CD...

Re:You just can't... (2, Funny)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 10 years ago | (#10514479)

Well people gobble up Windows for $150. So I'm guessing that's it's market value.

Linux-based operating systems rarely sell for more than $50. And more often than not people just download it for free. Of course that's with GPL. Without GPL I'm sure it would be worth 600M or whatever. GPL seems to really devalue your software.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514128)

first poop

free software (-1, Troll)

coolcold (805170) | about 10 years ago | (#10514129)

are priceless XD did i make it first post?

Other open source projects... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 10 years ago | (#10514133)

could have a monetary value attached depending of certain criteria. i.e. for Slashcode, if is sold as Weapon of Mass Destruction (of other web sites, a.k.a. slashdotting) could worth millons!

Re:Other open source projects... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 10 years ago | (#10514398)

As a standalone CMS it has its merits, but is mostly harmless, its destructive elements are distributed in numerous apartments and basements around the world munching on twinkies and drinking 7up!

Obligatuary quote (4, Funny)

rastakid (648791) | about 10 years ago | (#10514138)

"They want me to be a whore!" -- Linus Torvalds.

do i need to pay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514146)

can i get away by not paying any fees?

what if my customer didnt know that & so he didnt complain?

612 millions? (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | about 10 years ago | (#10514154)

Is that by the same accounting used by SCO???

Re:612 millions? (2, Insightful)

kawika (87069) | about 10 years ago | (#10514287)

No, it's the same accounting used by Microsoft and the RIAA. If someone has a copy then you assume they would pay (or could be forced to pay) the full retail price of the product as defined by its maker.

That's not the way the market works though. Only a small fraction of people pay full asking price. The others pay less via sales, rebates, coupons, volume discounts, or other incentives. And yes, some will pay zero by stealing it.

The key to maximizing profit is not to have one price, but to have a spectrum of prices that extracts the most money that each group is willing to pay...

Have to say it... (2, Interesting)

rampant mac (561036) | about 10 years ago | (#10514159)

Cue the Austin Powers quotes.

Now, I have to wonder, how much would it cost to pay Microsoft to GPL their Office product file formats?

Re:Have to say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514246)

Give them 10 years or so.... Bill might take a couple of hundred dollars just to keep his lights on.

One Billion Dollars (1)

NoSuchGuy (308510) | about 10 years ago | (#10514178)

Someone wrote the kernel ist estimated about USD 1 billion. [Don't know source use ggogle]

about 8000 man years x USD 125,000 = USD 1 Billion

Best of all:
You can get it for free!

Or for a limited time offer of only USD 699,00 from a special company

Pfff... 50 grand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514185)

If you're going to embark on thought experiments, do it without utterly laughable numbers. Perhaps you could get one complex driver for 50000, but not a kernel.

According to SCO.. (1)

puke76 (775195) | about 10 years ago | (#10514186)

It's worth about $699 per CPU! Don't tell these litigious bastards [thescogroup.com] that at that price, it's way too cheap! :)

What's the Linux kernel worth? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514193)

That depends on what price you put on freedom.

In an increasingly technologically based society and future, the GNU license provides the theoretical foundation for freedom.

It's Linux, and all the other Free (as in speech) software that gives us the practical foundation to realise this freedom.

What price on that?

Merkey's offer doesn't make sense to me ... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514203)

After an offer by one Jeff V. Merkey to pay 50K USD for a BSD-licensed copy of Linux

Why would they do that? What advantage is there to the BSD vs GPL licenses?

The only advantage is that if you redistribute or sell software that is GPLed, you have to provide source code - with BSD you don't.

So, Merkey's company wants to sell modified Linux without providing source code to the modifications. While I doubt the modifications are worth that much, he apparently does.

Why wouldn't Merkey use FreeBSD for the application he wants to sell? Almost all linux software is available for FreeBSD, and then he wouldn't have to pay $50,000 for a license.

Or can someone explain this to me?

Re:Merkey's offer doesn't make sense to me ... (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 10 years ago | (#10514351)

The advantage is they don't HAVE to share the source if they distribute the binary. I can't be sure their exact use, but something that comes to mind is wanting to market a canned OS that uses the linux kernel. Selling it like windows would mean that they would have to make the source available... but there are a lot of instances where it simply makes no sense to give people the ability to fork your code... especially in an OS.

Merkey is a CHEAP BASTARD! (1)

WebCowboy (196209) | about 10 years ago | (#10514491)

Either that or he is a comp[lete moron. $50,000? I mean, come on! Bill Gates paid that amount nearly a quarter century ago for a hobbyist's CP/M knock off when he was a snot nosed kid.

The least he could've done was adjust for inflation. Add to that the fact that Linux is much more sophisticated (and way more lines of code) and any fool can see the offer was a complete joke.

Assuming Merkey was serious about the offer, The BSD license would permit Merkey to sell a commercial OS based on the Linux kernel. Obviously, if he wanted to make a BSD based OS he wouldn't have had to spend money at all--cheap bastard that he is. Yes, you can build most any application from Linux in FreeBSD, but my guess is that he might have a preference for/more familiarity with the architecture of the Linux kernel, and wants to take advantage of the larger and sometimes more mature selection of drivers. Linux is the OSS market leader as well, and finding quality developers would be easier too.

Poll! (0, Offtopic)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 10 years ago | (#10514204)


My favorite kernel is:

  • Linux
  • BSD
  • Klink

Missing Option (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514225)

Corn, you insensitive clod!

Re:Poll! (1)

zoloto (586738) | about 10 years ago | (#10514280)

klink? something from the KDE krowd I suspect!

-ps. I have 5 gmail invites left. post here with your email address backwards and i'll send one to you. First 5 posted here (not emailed) get them. I'm trying desperately to get rid of em

Invites (1)

missing000 (602285) | about 10 years ago | (#10514340)

You are not alone. [userfriendly.org]

Re:Invites (1)

zoloto (586738) | about 10 years ago | (#10514420)

yeah, i feel the pain.

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514368)

Put them here.
http://isnoop.net/gmailomatic.php [isnoop.net]

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514374)

ok, it's worth a shot... moc.oohay@sorbsuoires

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514397)

zero_joker@mail.ru

thx!

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514390)

why fret about getting rid of them?

it doesn't matter.

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514429)

com.yahoo@baileymike2000

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514445)

ten.moklet@sepus

or

net.telkom@supes

xnahT

Re:Poll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514446)

moc.oohay@0002ekimyeliab

As noted in the article... (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | about 10 years ago | (#10514217)

The cost of a product is not necessarily equal to the cost of developing it.

50K ? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514221)

He could just download it for free. http://www.linuxiso.org/

Or was that Steff Murky? (1, Funny)

RealAlaskan (576404) | about 10 years ago | (#10514232)

After an offer by one Jeff V. Merkey to pay 50K USD for a BSD-licensed copy of Linux ...

Sure it wasn't Stef Murkey [userfriendly.org] ?

Re:Or was that Steff Murky? (2, Interesting)

tetranitrate (798753) | about 10 years ago | (#10514344)

Sure it wasn't Stef Murkey?

Sure that wasn't Stef Murky [userfriendly.org]

P.S. Same link as parent.

Re:Or was that Steff Murky? (1)

dj_super_dude (86692) | about 10 years ago | (#10514372)

hmm from the link I'm guessing he was sure

$600 M is ridiculous (0, Offtopic)

neonstz (79215) | about 10 years ago | (#10514249)

When people buy commercial 3rd party libraries, they do that because it is cheaper to buy the 3rd party library than to develop everything themselves. I'm pretty sure Qt/Win32 is worth more than the ~$2000 or something you have to pay for a single Enterprise lisence.

(I assume the guy who posted on the linux kernel list didn't mean that those who paid $50 K for a snapshot get the rights to distribute the source with a "BSD style" lisence).

Re:$600 M is ridiculous (1)

CaptainPinko (753849) | about 10 years ago | (#10514301)

what else could it mean? If I get a snapshot of Linux undera BSD license I can do with it whatevera BSD license allows which does allow me to redistribute under a BSD lciense!!!

Re:$600 M is ridiculous (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514309)

He made it quite clear that he does in fact want a BSD style license, IOW the right to distribute binaries (and source, if he so wishes).

One thing that I could imagine the kernel hackers might agree to is a binary-only license for use in one product. But that would still cost orders of magnitude more than 50k$.

Re:$600 M is ridiculous (1)

neonstz (79215) | about 10 years ago | (#10514505)

He made it quite clear that he does in fact want a BSD style license, IOW the right to distribute binaries (and source, if he so wishes).

He writes that he wants a "BSD style" lisence. However, I'm not sure that is what he wants. (Because his offer doesn't make much sense to me if he wants the code with full BSD (style) lisence).

Re:$600 M is ridiculous (1)

CheechBG (247105) | about 10 years ago | (#10514337)

I think you are missing the point. To have access to the entirety of the MS source code would be worth I would think a hell of a lot more than 2 grand. Granted, I don't think MS would charge 600 million for this, but if they would sell it I think you might have 600 companies all willing to pay 1 million for it.

No price (1, Redundant)

joxeanpiti (789529) | about 10 years ago | (#10514250)

Linux has no price. Is not for sale.

Eh? (4, Insightful)

niko9 (315647) | about 10 years ago | (#10514256)

It's like trying to put monetary value on a Van Gogh or a Matisse. The Linux kernel is truly priceless. You could never get that kind of collaboration even with the most highly paid software engineers, beacuse they don't do it for money, neither did Van Gogh.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514286)

> It's like trying to put monetary value on a Van Gogh or a Matisse.

1. Works by those two masters are sold all the time. Maybe not Night on the Rhone or Blue Nude, but certainly others.

2. The insurance company backing the above two works most certainly has put a monetary value on them.

Mu (4, Insightful)

Vainglorious Coward (267452) | about 10 years ago | (#10514264)

What is air worth? Some things have great value, but simply trying to measure that value in dollars is to misunderstand the nature of that value.

Re:Mu (2, Funny)

1000101 (584896) | about 10 years ago | (#10514391)

Good point. The problem is that business doesn't work that way. You need actual monetary values for all of your business property, requirements, etc. Are the managers supposed to say, "We have 1,000 machines running Linux. Our infrastructure is priceless!"?

Re:Mu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514416)

Comparing the Linux kernel to air is to deeply misunderstand the value of either Linux or air. Unless you can breathe FreeBSD.

(Insert HURD/vapor joke here...)

BSD License not IP Rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514267)

They are asking for a single license, not ownership of the kernel itself. The kernel would remain available in GPL and this one company would be buying the right not to contribute their changes back to the community.

If they sold the rights to the IP then another company could determine how it is licenced and make future versions closed source. GPL does not mean it is public, as US laws require the copyright to belong to specific people. This company could buy the right to develop their own derived version for 50K.

I would say that a price around 1 million would be more in line for a licence and that a price much higher (billion+) for the complete IP rights.

Keep in mind what they are buying. It would allow them to build their own Mac OS X based on Linux and licence it under their terms without giving back to Linux. It would not allow them to deny other distros from using Linux for free under GPL.

the answer is... (1)

k3v0 (592611) | about 10 years ago | (#10514273)

MU!

As being free is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514289)

one of the things that make linux valuable this discussion is pretty senseless. Now of course it would also be valuable if it was closed source, but being free and thus having all the value added that open source provides is one of the key assets of linux.

Since the kernel is free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514303)

... what purpose does this article serve besides speculation and argument (two totally useless things)? What a waste of bandwidth and resources. Typical /. crap.

I Thought This Was Already Established (4, Funny)

Lethyos (408045) | about 10 years ago | (#10514319)

Clearly it's $699.

sell linux ? who can do that ? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514324)

Developers and companies who chose to work on linux instead of another OS (Say BSD) is the license. They don't want anyone to take the source and do whatever they want then release it in the market as closed-source. I choose the GPL as a license because it forces other people to publish thier modifications.

Price of a shrink-wrapped Mandrake distro: $39.95 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514347)

Price of a set of blank CDs to copy the distro: $3

Watching Steve Ballmer fly around the world making promises and cutting the price of Windows to compete: priceless

High Flying (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 10 years ago | (#10514357)

In terms of the amount of man-hours, resources, user time, and the complexity of it, the linux kernel is probobly worth about as much as the complete blueprints of the Airbus A380.

Strange to think of it in these terms, but when you think about it the kernel is at this point at the same, or a greater level of complexity than an aircraft design, and is probobly in use by more people than the average aircraft model at this point. What is the current population of the republic of linux these days anyway?

No price is high enough (2, Insightful)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | about 10 years ago | (#10514358)

No price is high enough for the Linux kernel. If Linux is ever translicensed to anything other than the GPL, it paves the way for Microsoft to eventually come up with their own closed-source version of it -- at no cost to them. From there, they could "embrace and extend" it and drive the GPL version of Linux into obscurity.

Think about that, and then tell me how much the Linux kernel is worth. $50,000? A few hundred million? A billion or more? Nope -- it's like a MasterCard commercial, in real life. "Having an operating system Microsoft can never own: PRICELESS."

I suppose I could get a "funny" mod by saying "There are some things money can't buy; for everything else, there's Microsoft" but I'm actually dead serious here.

Makes no sense... (1)

CaptainPinko (753849) | about 10 years ago | (#10514495)

Microsoft can never own FreeBSD either. They can take all the code they want and they still won't own it. There will always be people developing for it and it will always be there.

With the GPL you make GPL software better. With BSD you make all software better. Many of us still use Windows from time to time... why wouldn't we want Windows to be better too? Even if Windows becomes better than every *BSD in every way we can still have our own functional, free (libre) operating system.

Really who past their adolescence actually cares about Linux beating Windows? They are tools, use them. You'll always have your free one so the rest doesn't matter.

pretty safe offer (5, Insightful)

Kwantus (34951) | about 10 years ago | (#10514361)

Jeff's offer:
This offer must be accepted by **ALL** copyright holders...
That'll be harder than getting agreement on the Charlottetown accord (a thing in which any given Canadian could find something to hate)...A) you'll never find *ALL* the copyright holders - plus the complication some have died, who of their heirs has the say? B) of the hundreds you can find it's sure a few will say No on principle.

Re:pretty safe offer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514481)

When source is committed to the Linux kernel, isn't copyright explicitly transferred to Linus?

Agreed (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 10 years ago | (#10514492)

You can't get all the people in a building to agree to walk across the street for ice cream.

Never mind this deal...

the value of Linux's kernel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514365)

is worth a hell of a lot more than MSFT's Windows kernel...

can not put a price on freedom...

Why (1)

ajs318 (655362) | about 10 years ago | (#10514382)

Why would you want to pay millions of dollars to buy a copy of Linux under a BSD-like licence, when there is already an operating system [freebsd.org] available under a BSD-like licence -- and it costs nothing?!

The 3-clause BSD licence is poisonous, because it allows someone effectively to turn an open-source product into a closed-source one, just by not distributing the source code. {The 2-clause variant allowing source code distribution only is fine for stuff written in interpreted languages -- but makes it inconvenient for stuff written in compiled languages. Although the degree of inconvenience is growing less as processor speeds and drive capacities improve; compiling from source is no longer the drain it once used to be. Nonetheless, ex-Windows bods expect pre-compiled binaries}.

OTOH, if a program is distributed under a 3-clause BSD licence but without source code, you would get a licence to distribute the source code if you could get the source code somehow. And decompilers will soon be a practical reality ..... decompilation belongs to the same branch of mathematical problems as shape recognition, and if it's true about modern systems being capable of picking out a face from a still photo in real-time video of a moving crowd, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

Go Linux lovers (-1, Troll)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | about 10 years ago | (#10514389)

Glad to see it's not just SCO that can artificially inflate the worth of software.

But is this really accurate? (1)

stephenry (648792) | about 10 years ago | (#10514394)

Yes, $600 million may be an accurate value for what it would cost to develop Linux from scratch, but how often do people buy software at the price it took to build.

I could purchase a copy of windows for $200 even though it cost a couple of billions to develop. So although this figure is interesting, it really doesn't mean anything -and thats assuming the licensing issues could be overcome.

FreeBSD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514414)

You know, there's a great Unix-like kernel out there with a BSD-style license: FreeBSD (and other *BSD's).

Duke Nukem Forever..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514415)

So what's that make Duke Nukem Forever worth...

100 billion dollars?

The best reply? (1)

magefile (776388) | about 10 years ago | (#10514436)

"Either lower your dosage or up it."

/me goes off to change his sig

Value of Linux to a single user (1, Insightful)

snowtigger (204757) | about 10 years ago | (#10514438)

I would say that Linux (in this case, RTFA) is worth the opportunity cost of using another *BSD. That's to say the cost of modifying another kernel to doing the same thing as Linux. So $50000 sounds like a good deal to this guy. If they save a developer salary because of Linux, then $50000 is a good deal to them.

Saying Linux is worth $600M doesn't make sense to a single user, since they can opt for another kernel. But if you can find 12000 small companies, then sure.

The guy clearly wants to use the kernel in a BSD way, which I interpret as wanting to modify Linux without telling the rest of the world about how. And possibly get away from getting accused of breaking the GPL.

What I don't understand is _why_ the guy wants a BSD copy of the Linux kernel. If he wanted to add a specific feature without releasing the code, he could just add for a binary one, right ? (Just like NVidia does)

How much Bill Gates paid for DOS to Tim Paterson? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10514441)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QDOS

"By many accounts, Kildall did not handle business negotiations and left that to his former wife, Dorothy McEwen and his attorney, neither of whom was willing to sign IBM's non-disclosure agreement. In addition, they refused to modify CP/M-86, and insisted on a higher royalty than IBM proposed. As a result, IBM turned to Microsoft, which licensed 86-DOS for 25,000 USD on SCP's behalf and hired Tim Paterson to port it to the IBM-PC, which used the slower and less expensive Intel 8088 processor. IBM fixed over 300 bugs in the ported version, and wrote the user manual for it. A month before the PC's release, Microsoft purchased 86-DOS from SCP for 50,000 USD. "

Anybody willing to NOT be next Bill Gates ??
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