Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




More Linux Developers than Windows ones?

According to:

http://technologyreports.net/enterpriseinnovator/?articleID=1849

<<<
Linux is becoming the development platform of choice; for example, it is expected that more developers will be developing on Linux than Windows by 2004;
>>>

Well, 2004 is a few days ahead, but maybe the article meant that it will happen some time into 2004. I just want to speculate what it means.

First of all, it doesn't naturally means more users. The fraction of developers that are working on "shrinkwrap" software that
many people download or buy and use is very small. We can expect Windows to have more users for the forseeable future.

What it does mean, however, is that Linux is more and more becoming a platform of choice for developing applications that the majority of developers need: embedded software, web-sites software, server applications, software for internal use, computation software, academic software, "developed-for-fun" software,  etc. Development on Windows has a higher initial cost, requires working against a proprietary environment with more flaws than Linux or UNIX has, and its vendor does not attempt to make it compatible with all other systems. (which restricts development there to one platform).

So, it's a partial victory for Linux, but still not the full monty of conquering the desktop.

Shlomi Fish
Saturday, December 27, 2003

I agree.
Regarding platforms favored by various sorts of developers:
1 All free software will be developed on Linux in the west.
2 All for-profit software will be developed on Windows in the east.

And for the home user on a budget:
1 Linux will be the platform of choice for those who do not pirate.
2 Windows will  be the platform of choice for those who do pirate.

Charlotte C.
Saturday, December 27, 2003

If Linux becomes dominant, this is bad for programmers, because the results of our work will get to be cheaper and cheaper.

If cars become free, and everyone knows they are free, then fewer and fewer people will want to pay for accessories.

John
Saturday, December 27, 2003

John: I don't necessarily agree with you here. First of all, I don't understand the car analogy. Do you mean that the entire cars are made free (with all their accessories), or just the cars themselves? If just the cars themselves, then more people will buy car accessories, because they are the cars' complementary product:

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html

Now as for Linux and whether it is bad for programmers: I don't think so. Granted, more software that can now be bought will be made available for free. (as in beer and as in speech). However, the number of developers who work on developing for-profit software is very small. A great deal of them (like the authors of most shareware programs) don't expect to make a very good living of it, and are doing it mainly for fun, and for the social experience.

Linux makes it much easier to develop other types of software (which I enumerated in the body of the post). We can expect that if a system where such solutions are possible becomes more accessible (i.e: Linux is available and popular), then demand for programmers doing something with this system will actually increase. So, I think it would be good for programmers. (at least most of them)

This is without getting into software customization and other possibilities that are better done with open-source software.

Shlomi Fish
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Shlomi, I think that the theory about complements is true in most cases.

It's true in general, but it's not true in all cases.

I think that when CEOs and business people will see that Linux, Apache, PHP and AbiWord are free, and that they are good alternatives, they will get the impression that software should be free or should have very little value.

So, it is only logical that business people and CEOs will offer less money to programmers.

They will think "Hey, Apache, Linux and PHP are excellent and are free. Your work is not better or larger than Linux, so I don't think I'll have to pay you a lot".

So - programmer salaries WILL drop if Linux, Apache, PHP, etc will become dominant in the business world.

John
Saturday, December 27, 2003

"Your work is not better or larger than Linux, so I don't think I'll have to pay you a lot". Huh? One has nothing to do with the other.

Custom developed or purchased software is a cost of doing business, like the electric bill or a truck. A business will buy it when the return on investment justifies the cost. Any sensible businessman will pay for the best price/performance of the alternatives available, and any sensible programmer will get as much renumeration as he can.

Tom Hathaway
Saturday, December 27, 2003

You realise you've just proved the point that Linux is stupid for programmers? You say that most programmers "don't expect to make a very good living out of it."

At to whether there are more Linux developers than Windows ones, I think the figures for "Linux developers" would include a lot more amateurs and wanna-be's than the figures for Windows developers.

Bongo Drums
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Tom, in all sincerity, how much contract development experience do you have? Because your first paragraph tells me you haven't done a lot.

Convincing people who don't write code the difficulty and value of writing code is one of the hardest things in this job.

Philo

Philo
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Just because there are more people developing on Linux doesn't mean that they're doing it for free.

I was part of a small consulting house that did custom server software.  We'd do everything on Linux, FreeBSD, etc.. and recommend the appropriate OS for the production system (generally it was Linux or Solaris/Intel for the best price/performance).  And we sure charged them through the nose for the privilege of hiring us .. usually $2-3K USD per day per developer.

Yummy
Saturday, December 27, 2003

I am sure that there are some developers getting a lot of money developing for Linux.

However, I am more interested in averages. Some big questions are:

1. If Linux succeeds in the corporate world, will the average developer salary increase, or decrease?

2. If Linux succeeds in the corporate world, will there be more, or less jobs for developers?


I belive that if Linux succeeds in the corporate world, the average salary for developers will decrease.

Why? Because the people running businesses (who are usually business people with very little IT knowledge) will get used to the idea that lots of software is free - so a programmer's work can't be worth very much.

John
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Philo - Not much contracting, but I think the situation is the same everywhere. The company I work for now would never consider letting a programmer negotiate with a customer; that's the salesmen's job and they are good at it or they are gone.

That's what we're really talking about here: salesmanship and negotiating. Very few programmers can sell themselves or their project. It would be interesting to hear your experiences now that you're on that side of the table, although I'll bet when the serious talk starts the engineers are out of the room.

Tom Hathaway
Saturday, December 27, 2003

How many of those "Linux" developers are really Java developers using a commoditized OS?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, December 27, 2003

[nod] to Brad - I was just wondering the same thing. Does PHP count as "Linux development"? If it does, then did they also count all the ASP web wannabes?

The more I think about it, the less I think that there can be any value in trying to measure "linux developers vs. windows developers"

Philo

Philo
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Ah, I see now the keyword which comfirms my suspicion.

"more developers will be developing on Linux than Windows by 2004"

Note that says ON Linux, not FOR Linux.

I don't think it's impossible. There are an awful lot of Java developers, and I imagine the great majority of them are using Linux as their day to day development environment.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Brad, very good observation.  I'd venture to say a *lot*. 
Also, John, I don't think your correct at all.  THe more companies that start using free software like apache, mysql, jboss, etc. the more companies will NEED programmers to program for apache, mysql, jboss etc.  Make sense?  The more companies that NEED apache programmers, the more DEMAND there will be for apache programmers.  How is that not a good thing for developers like us?

vince
Saturday, December 27, 2003

A company wants to get an IT task done.


If they use a free solution (such as GNU C++, for example), some programmers will get paid.

The business people get the idea that, since GNU C++ is free, then the work of the programmers in general is not very valuable.


If they use a proprietary solution, the same number of programmers will get paid.

Plus, other programmers will get paid to develop the proprietary solution.


Another important thing:

If companies and individuals use commercial software, then a programmer or a group of programmers have the chance to create their own software company, because they can write some software and sell it.

This is MUCH harder in a "open source everywhere" world.

Yes, there are some exceptions.. but if you look at the profits of software companies that sell commercial software, vs. the profits of software companies based on open source solutions, you will see that the former are doing a lot better than the latter.

Don't you want to at least have a chance of starting your own software company?

John
Saturday, December 27, 2003

and for what its worth, I love linux for server envoirments, but I wouldn't ever THINK of using linux for my workstation.

vince
Saturday, December 27, 2003

The increased spread of Linux and of-the-shelf software is likely to make corporations less willing to pay for off-the-shelf software.  They will seek out free alternatives more often.

However, most programmers aren't employed to write off-the-shelf type of software; most are paid to create and maintain customized software for a particular company. Companies aren't stupid enough to think that because they can buy a piece of tax software for $50 it means they can pay you peanuts to write programs that do tax calculations unique to their business.  As it is, they are already paying us as little as they can get away with. 

Obtaining free software means development projects will have a greater ROI and be more likely to be approved.

Stop crying that you won't be able to make money writing yet another operating system or yet another web server.  Go and develop something to solve a business or scientific problem, or figure out something else to create that hasn't been already done 100 times.

T. Norman
Saturday, December 27, 2003

>"If companies and individuals use commercial software, then a programmer or a group of programmers have the chance to create their own software company, because they can write some software and sell it."

If individuals didn't have free software tools and platforms, like Perl, C++, Linux, Python, Apache, etc., it would be more difficult for them to start their own company because of the cost of proprietary licenses.

T. Norman
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Since this is turning into a discussion of how open source will affect us, let me recommend that everyone read a great article by Marc Fleury.  Basically he explains why he CAN and IS making money by providing an open source project such as jboss.  No small time ISV is going to be able to come up with a complex Application server (or database program, or operating system, or ...) and make money doing it.  BUT, many ISV's can and will make money writing custom software FOR those big, complex applications.  Hence the reason OPEN SOURCE WILL MAKE US ALL MONEY.

http://www.jboss.org/modules/html/white3.pdf

vince
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Vince, developers have been writing complex applications for some time. JBoss didn't create that market and probably hasn't changed anything.

T Norman, the cost of a piece of software is typically tiny compared to the cost of developers so I think the argument that it's important is irrelevant. Which leads to the bigger question of why someone would promote such an agenda.

I think the argument that free software undermines the generally valuation of programming services is probably closest to the truth.

Bongo Drums
Saturday, December 27, 2003

The combined cost of a set of proprietary software is NOT tiny for small new companies that don't know how they are going to meet next month's payroll, or for people thinking of growing a personal project into a profitable operation.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 28, 2003

That "analysis" is patently ridiculous.  I doubt Linux would come even close to one tenth of Windows development.  Furthermore, probably 90% of Linux development is php, in which the programming is done on Windows and the target browser is Windows/IE.  1/10th of 1% sounds about right.

When the hype dies away in a few years, I doubt anyone but a handful of core diehards will even remember Linux. 

crapix
Sunday, December 28, 2003

>When the hype dies away in a few years, I doubt anyone but a handful of core diehards will even remember Linux.

Much like "Linux will take over the world" this has been heard over and over since about 1995.  The simple reality is that Windows, Linux,  Closed and Open Source is here to stay, at least for the next 5 years. 

Anyway, if you're seriously worried that Open Source projects will destroy the commercial software market, you should focus more attention towards Commercial Software- as it's entirely that market's fault if OSS takes over.  No offense, but if you can't do better then a bunch of "rag-tag amateur programmers" (these forum's words, not mine), your company doesn't deserve to be in business, nor do you deserve to collect any type of salary.

Professional salaries demand professional programmers producing professional software; anything less is unacceptable.  Why do you think people use FogBugz instead of Bugzilla?  Obviously because of  the additional value FogBugz offers, it more then justifies its price and pays for itself in the long run.

Jim Battin
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Outside the EU and US, the competition is between Linux
and pirated Windows, with Linux gaining ground quickly.

When I visited China recently, it was amazing just how
many people there regarded Windows as yesterday's news.
I asked a couple of friends about it and it basically boiled
down to a combination of not wanting to feel guilty about
pirating software, the high cost of MSFT products, and a
fair bit of anti-Americanism - Linux is seen as much less
"American" than Windows.

(disclaimer: I'm primarily a Linux or Posix-environment
embedded systems developer, who develops primarily
on Linux, although I do have to support stuff that runs
on CE.)

foobarista
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Personally I'd wager that the situation of the average IT employee would improve/stabilize if Linux made a concerted effort to invade the server room. The reason, of course, is economics -- For the majority of organizations IT is a cost-center and a completely non-core operation (which is why most see it as so "easy" to outsource it to consulting firms) -- the budgets for IT are directly related to the revenue of the core business rather than some artificial manufactured IT requirement list. Given this, removing the "Microsoft tax", as it is commonly termed, is more money in the pot for the rest of the IT department. Indeed, even if the TCO of Linux in a large enterprise isn't the panacea that it is often made out to be, the spendings on the Linux side will be in local organizational IT workers, rather than in filling the coffers in Redmond.

That's one possible scenario.

Dennis Forbes
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Some random comments to the thread
"They will think "Hey, Apache, Linux and PHP are excellent and are free. Your work is not better or larger than Linux, so I don't think I'll have to pay you a lot."  Not a logical conclusion

"1. If Linux succeeds in the corporate world, will the average developer salary increase, or decrease?"  If Linux succeeds in the corporate world, will the average developer shower?

"How many of those "Linux" developers are really Java developers using a commoditized OS?"  Great question.

"Much like "Linux will take over the world" this has been heard over and over since about 1995.  The simple reality is that Windows, Linux,  Closed and Open Source is here to stay, at least for the next 5 years. "  *nix is like a star that is going to supernova.  Linux is the supernova, after that there sure is a lot less star (*nix)  Remember *nix is 30 year old foundations.  There are fans (mostly sys admins), but the people that choose it at the corporate level would probably rather buy Windows, but are forced to *nix because they NEED something Windows yet lacks (security, scalability, etc)  Once Windows comes on 72 processor boxes and is truly a server os, not one line with all the home user features there, Unix will fade.  Anyone that mentions the word Dell and scalability in the same sentence does not fathom the type of scalability I am talking about.

Mike
Sunday, December 28, 2003

"There are fans (mostly sys admins), but the people that choose it at the corporate level would probably rather buy Windows, but are forced to *nix because they NEED something Windows yet lacks (security, scalability, etc)  Once Windows comes on 72 processor boxes and is truly a server os, not one line with all the home user features there, Unix will fade."

Windows Server 2003 (aka Server XP) has a 64-bit edition running on massive Itanium boxes - An 64-cpu Itanium2 HP Superdome running. Without talking about rare research computers, this is generally about as powerful scaled up as systems get in the real-world enterprise space.

Having said that, Linux isn't taking over on the big iron -- it's taking over on the small server systems, which comprise the vast bulk of computing center inventory - little one, two, maybe four way servers serving various group apps, etc. People often choose Linux not because of the features it has that Windows lacks, but rather because it has the features that they need for their project to succeed ... why pay for Active Directory or any of the myriad of other Windows features if they are totally inconsequential (and indeed of negative value) to the project?

Dennis Forbes
Sunday, December 28, 2003

"However, most programmers aren't employed to write off-the-shelf type of software; most are paid to create and maintain customized software for a particular company."

I disagree - there are more app developers than there are custom one-off database setter-uppers. Not ever sure why the data base administration set up tasks we are talking about are even being considered in the same caliber as real programming.

Now I do agree there are more database administrators than app developers, and also more network administrators than app developers and so these are a couple of smart fields to go into since they are less likely to be outsourced. And also a lot less skill is needed to throw together some queries and forms than to do real world app development that has to be usable by Aunt Em and powerful to Geek Gary.

But when it comes to actually real programming, most developers work an mass marketed software, not one-off software.

Very few companies develop custom apps from scratch nowadays. But lots of people buy new games and other mass-market programs.

Charlotte C.
Sunday, December 28, 2003

"They will think "Hey, Apache, Linux and PHP are excellent and are free. Your work is not better or larger than Linux, so I don't think I'll have to pay you a lot."  Not a logical conclusion

**************
No, it's not. Never worked with corporate management, have you? They are not exempt from irrational thought.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Well, it seems that this thread sparked a very active discussion overnight, which is good, I suppose. Here are more of my thoughts.

I think we can safely assume that developers who write software on Linux would usually intend it on Linux. While there's Java, Perl/Python/Tcl/whatever, wxWindows, and other cross-platform solutions, you cannot really guarantee they will run correctly on Windows, unless you've tested them there. Some developers still develop for Linux while sitting on a Windows workstation (so they'll have MS Office, etc.). But generally, Windows and Linux/UNIX are so radically different, that most developers will have to choose one over the other.

So, we can assume most development will be intended for Linux (or at least for both UNIX and Windows) as well.

I again stress the fact that programmers will probably not get paid less to develop on open source platforms. Again, if a company wishes to get its job done, it will want to hire a clueful developer. Even if it does not require any specialized software, it will still need a clueful crew to maintain the computing facilities. (and in the UNIX world a Sys Admin is usually a programmer on ice)

The wages of programmers are determined by market dynamics, by how much the organization is willing to pay for them, etc. rather than whether they work on free software or not. A great deal of programmers worked in LAMP environments, (UNIX, Apache, MySQL/PostgreSQL, and Perl/PHP/Python) and still got adequate wages for years.

As for whether proprietary software will still exist in an open-source-dominated world (assuming such a situation will materialize) - I think it will. Some proprietary software is of exceptional quality and scope that no open-source solution of its quality, is yet available . This situation may change, eventually, for individual packages, but as a whole there is a place for proprietary enterpreneurship and innovation.

Also, even in markets where there is adequate bug tracking software, one can many times make money selling proprietary software. Joel is still selling FogBUGZ for money, despite the fact that bugzilla, Mantis and many other open source packages for tracking bugs are available and commonly used. (not to mention a lot of other proprietary competition).

And naturally, the majority of developers don't work on any kind of shrinkwrap software (open source, proprietary, consultingware, etc), so most of them are generally not going to be out of jobs.

Shlomi Fish
Sunday, December 28, 2003

I've actually encountered the open source effect. An "open source" web firm commissioned me to develop a sophisticated J2EE backend to perform critical processing for a web site for a government client.

When I told them how long it would take and what it would cost, they were incredulous, literally pointing out that they could get this and that software for free, and that surely adding a few little bits couldn't possibly take more than a few days. They didn't understand that the rubbishy little bits of PHP they showed me were worthless, and would form no part of a well designed Java project.

The thing that got me was that 1) they seemed to have won the project by offering to "use open source solutions," when they weren't actually capable and 2) while they quibbled about my fee, they had no qualms in billing the government for all of their own time.

NDA Rules
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Dear NDA rules,
                        This is not the open source effect at all. If you were doing the project on MS SQL server they would still be incredulous that for a simple VB.Net or VBA solution you were charging them tens or hundreds of times more than they paid for all the powerful software they got from Microsoft.

                        Nor is your problem limited to programming. Any lawyer, corporate trainer, private tutor, plumber or electrician will tell you that people are notoriously averse to paying the going rate for any service.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Re: Linux in China. Well, I don't know if this trend is significant there or not. (I did hear a statistics about Thailand that indicated this was the case). The "anti-American" opinions they have expressed probably has some anti-Capitalistic
roots. I, (and Eric S. Raymond) would very much disagree that Linux is anti-Capitalistic, but I can understand where the analogy is coming from. Even in countries where Capitalism is prelevant, people are inherently not very willing to pay a lot of money for software that can otherwise be distributed for free. I was told, that in Economics, a vendor who sells for money a product which had a certain development cost (possibly very large) and its production cost is zero is called a parasite. (!)

But I suppose that whatever trends exist to use Linux, whether in developing or developed countries are positive, because I find it a great product regardless of price.

Shlomi Fish
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Stephen, you're wrong. I've been in business a long time and delivered good work to lots of companies big and small and they usually know what they need to pay and are happy to pay it.

This was quite explicitly an effect where they wrongly extrapolated from the availability of free source code to the cost they expected to pay for sophisticated software development.

NDA Rules
Sunday, December 28, 2003

"Windows Server 2003 (aka Server XP) has a 64-bit edition running on massive Itanium boxes - An 64-cpu Itanium2 HP Superdome running."

Itanium is dead.  I should have added 72+ procs on a chip architecture with a future.

Being a sysadmin type myself, I prefer Unix.  I like Linux over Windows and Unix over Linux.  I bash the Linux zealots a lot though becasue sometimes Microsoft solutions do make sense.

Mike
Sunday, December 28, 2003

----" This was quite explicitly an effect where they wrongly extrapolated from the availability of free source code to the cost they expected to pay for sophisticated software development. "-----

You're probably talking one example, and they were probably not used to dealing with open source software.

I've known businesses and individualswho have a very good idea of what the price is, and others who have no idea. Those that have no idea usually quickly end up in the first group if they persist.

If something saves a business money it will pay for it, as long as it is satisfied it is not being taken for a ride.

Stephen Jones
Monday, December 29, 2003

[If Linux becomes dominant, this is bad for programmers, because the results of our work will get to be cheaper and cheaper.]

Just because you develop software for a different platform doesn't mean you work for free or give your software away for free. The GPL does not stipulate that all software on linux must use the GPL.

If you are arguing against open source as a business model thats a whole different argument. Linux itself is just another platform to develop on.

trollbooth
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

" The GPL does not stipulate that all software on linux must use the GPL. "

It really is debatable...I remember some time when Linux was first starting to make inroads that there was a lot of infighting about whether GPLd software could be "used" by other GPLd software -- i.e. if I bundle the GPL functionality that I want to use in a command line application, and then from my proprietary closed-source app call it, is that a violation of the GPL? Many early replies were "yes", but that would naturally mean that nothing but GPLd software could run on a GPLd OS, as using system services is basically the same.

Dennis Forbes
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

[The GPL does not stipulate that all software on linux must use the GPL.]

True, and even more true is the fact that no where is it mandated that GPL software should be developed free of charge.
GPL simply states that both the developer and the user have full access to the code, and that they can use it to their needs.

As a developer, this means I can reuse code and functions.
As a user this means I am not tied by any means other then the satisfaction I have with the developer.

Gil
Friday, January 02, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home