In 2008, IDC analyst Al Gillen cited a nearly 24 percent annual growth rate for the Linux industry, which puts a $21 billion 2007 technology at $49 billion in 2011. The companies involved in Linux include industry leaders such as IBM, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Intel, Hitachi, NEC, and Novell. All have all invested time, talent, and resources to bettering Linux on their own and through the Linux Foundation.
If Linux is free of cost, how does a Linux company generate revenue?
One example of how a Linux business works: while nearly all of a Linux distribution's code is available for free download, the time and cost involved in actually downloading all of that code and putting it together in a cohesive and functional manner is significantly high.
To avoid the timesink and the learning curve required to accomplish such a task, users can simply pay a distribution maker for the convenience of not having to build a free Linux from scratch. Businesses and individual users benefit from the distributors' expertise in putting all of the free Linux code into an easy-to-use set of packages.
Another source of revenue for companies is ongoing commercial support for Linux. In fact, some distributions will allow users to download their software free of charge and build their entire revenue model on a services and support business plan.
Linux is a platform that can generate revenue, all while still being free. Customers gain the knowledge that they are paying directly for support and convenience, and will always have a choice of which Linux systems will work for them best.