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Linux Foundation decreased Linux spending to 3.2% in 2022.
Down from the, already absurd, 3.4% in 2021.
August 09, 2023
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On December 8th, 2022, the Linux Foundation released their annual report for 2022.

I’m not going to sugar coat this… it is absolutely ridiculous.

The highlight? Funding for the Linux kernel, in 2022, dropped to a measly 3.2% of the foundation’s total revenue of $243 Million dollars.

Down from the — already absurdly low — 3.4% from 2021.

Considering the name of the foundation… that is, needless to say, highly amusing. Or concerning. Possibly infuriating. Likely all three.

Let’s dive into the details and try to figure out why this is happening.

Seriously. Expenditures on Linux drop to 3.2%

Let’s dive into this deeper and try to get an understanding of exactly what is happening here… because that number is just so, dramatically low.

While The Linux Foundation keeps fairly tight-lipped about the details — and they haven’t published their IRS 990 forms for the last two years (which would provide us additional details) — they do provide some high level percentages for us to work from.

Source: Linux Foundation 2022 Annual Report

That chart on the right. The expenditures. Let’s zero in on those numbers and break it down into a bar chart to better visualize things.

Holy smokes.

A few things you’ll immediately notice:

  • Linux is almost the smallest category that the “Linux Foundation” spends money on.

  • “Corporate Operations” receives over twice the funding that “Linux” does.

  • And non-Linux projects? Those receive nearly twenty times the funding of Linux. Twenty! 20x!

The Linux Foundation brought in over $243 Million USD in 2022. Which means the total amount put towards Linux was, according to The Linux Foundation, roughly $7.7 Million (3.2%).

For comparison, the Foundation spent roughly $18 Million on “Corporate Operations” and $144 Million on non-Linux projects.

It’s almost hard to wrap your head around, isn’t it? Here’s another chart that shows Linux Foundation spending.

This is, needless to say, wild. And it calls up a few questions, namely:

  • What, exactly, is all that money being spent on?

  • And… why?

  • Who is making the decision to spend so much money on things that are not Linux?

Let’s see what we can find out.

Where is that money going?

Again, the Linux Foundation provides very few specific details. And hasn’t provided a publicly available form 990 -- an IRS filing required for all tax exempt organizations -- for the last two years (once they do, the Lunduke Journal of Technology will investigate the contents).

Instead, the Linux Foundation provides a generalized breakdown of project types and percentages in their annual report (which, despite being over 130 pages long… is light on actual numbers).

Source: Linux Foundation 2022 Annual Report

Highlights:

  • The Linux Foundation invests more money into “Blockchain” than “Linux”. By a lot (3.7% vs 2.3% of total project spending).

  • They also invest more — a lot more — in “Compliance Best Practices”, “AI”, “IoT”, and “Cloud”.

Repeat: “Blockchain” related projects receive nearly twice the funding of “Linux”… in the Linux Foundation.

I mean… What?!

Now, in defense of The Linux Foundation, the majority of that project funding is going towards open source software of one type or another. At least tangentially. Just not… you know… Linux.

Getting out of the Linux business

What are a few of the specific projects receiving that funding? Here’s four that have an entirely unknown amount of funding:

This is worth repeating: We do not have detailed financial information on these sub-foundations. They don’t provide individual annual reports for each (as they are all under the “Linux Foundation” umbrella) and there doesn’t appear to be any source of documentation, publicly available, to figure out those details.

The fact is, some of these projects may receive many times what the Linux kernel receives. Others may receive a tiny fraction of that amount. We simply don’t have that information.

And, without the Linux Foundation having publicly available 990 forms for 2022 (which are required for organizations like the Linux Foundation)… those vague, percentage breakdowns, by category, are the best bits of information we have available.

Which, honestly, is troubling.

But, one thing is clear, the Linux Foundation is investing — heavily — in almost any type of software… as long as it is not their core business... Linux.

If we were looking at any other company — that observation, combined with the decreasing percentage of revenue spent on their core product — would lead us to the obvious conclusion that they were getting out of their core business.

Which means… it looks like the Linux Foundation is preparing to get out of the “Linux” business.

I know. I know. Don’t shoot me.

I’m just pointing at what’s happening and saying out loud what we’re all thinking.

Where does that money come from?

Great. But… why is this happening? Why is so little funding actually making it to Linux? Why are they migrating — almost entirely — towards other businesses?

In an attempt to answer that, let’s look at where the money comes from — let’s figure out who actually controls the purse-strings.

According to the annual report, the largest block of income (44.5%) comes from membership in the Linux Foundation itself. And we know that becoming a “Platinum Member” of The Linux Foundation costs $500,000 per year.

So who, exactly, are those Platinum Members, you ask? We’ve got a handy graphic just for that!

MicrosoftOracleMeta (Facebook). IntelHuaweiTencent.

Drop down to the Gold level (which runs $100,000 per year) and you’ve got firms like GoogleBlackRockCardanoAlibabaWeBankRefinitivBaidu, and many others.

Those memberships add up. Quickly. These are the companies that pay for the salary of those at The Linux Foundation.

Not only do those companies all have the ear of Linux Foundation executives (if someone gives you half a million dollars every year… you certainly pick up the phone when they call)… but those Platinum Members also get a seat on the Linux Foundation Board of Directors.

They pay... so they get to drive.

This is the current Board:

Take note of the companies that each Board Member represents and works for. (Also worth noting that the Board Chair, Nithya Ruff, works for Amazon… though that is not disclosed in that graphic.)

A lot of companies.  And, at least some of those companies… would rather not see Linux succeed.

Note: I, Lunduke, know many of these people. I’ve broken bread with a rather large portion of them. Some of them I rather quite like personally. But all of them — every single one — has an agenda. Someone gives them a paycheck. And that’s worth noting.

And these are the people who — to a significant degree — determine which projects and sub foundations the Linux Foundation will create, promote, and fund. And which it won’t.

While we do not have publicly published meeting minutes — Oh!  What we wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall of some of those meetings! — looking at the individuals (and companies they represent) on the board… we can clearly see why “Linux” funding is not only a small portion of what The Linux Foundation does… but it’s shrinking, year-on-year.

Without published minutes of the Linux Foundation board, and publicly available 990 forms for 2022, we are left in a position where the best we can do is piece together what little information is public… and draw our own conclusions.

And that conclusion is this: Many Mega Corporations have purchased influence in the Linux Foundation. And, as a result, the Linux Foundation is now transitioning away from Linux.

Pessimistic and cynical?  For sure.  But also rather obvious.  In an undeniable way.

What is the future of Linux within The Linux Foundation?

Knowing what we know about The Linux Foundation — which is a whole lot less than we should know — what does the future of Linux support look like from the foundation?

Will we continue to see “Linux” becoming a smaller and smaller part of the overall Linux Foundation business?

The answer to that question seems to be a resounding: “Signs point to yes”.

In fact, I would not be surprised if they changed their foundation name to something without “Linux” in it… very soon.

If the Linux Foundation continues their current approach of establishing new sub-foundations (all focused on non-Linux activities and businesses)… My prediction is that 2023 will see growth in Linux Foundation total revenue, and another drop in Linux Kernel support — either in terms of total dollars or overall percentage. Possibly below 3%.

Note: The Lunduke Journal of Technology has reached out to the Linux Foundation with questions on these, and other, topics — and a request for comment. No response has been provided. Which is pretty par-for-the-course with stories concerning the Linux Foundation over the last several years.

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What was the first PDA?
It wasn't the Palm Pilot. Nor the Newton. Let's keep going back to find the answer...

It’s always fun to look at who was the “first” to do something amazing.

Who made the first computer shell? Who was the first computer programmer? What was the first smartphone?

Today, let’s ask another simple question: What was the first PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)?

What (exactly) is a PDA?

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Here is the official, Lunduke Journal Approved (tm) definition of “PDA”.

PDA - [ pē′dē-ā ]

Short for personal digital assistant. A lightweight, handheld computer, which can fit in a large pocket, generally used for storing information such as addresses or schedules.

Using this definition means we can include many different form factors — including the classic “handheld, touchscreen” style (such as the Palm Pilots), as well as the “palmtops” (such as the HP LX or Jornadas).

They key is that it is “handheld”, “pocket sized”, and a “computer”. And, of course, it must “assist” the user in some way. Storing notes, contacts, or appointments. Running custom software. That sort of thing.

But, and here is a key bit, calculators don’t count. The PDA must be, first and foremost, a computer.

It came before the 1990s

Many people believe that the Palm Pilot was the first PDA. Arriving on the scene in 1996… it was, in fact, far from the first.

Others (including Time Magazine) proclaim the Apple Newton, released in 1992, to be the first PDA.

Also, wrong. The Tandy Zoomer beat the Apple Newton to market by quite a wide margin. Yet that device is also not the first PDA.

Fun Historical Side-Note: Even though the Apple Newton was not the first device of this type (not by a long-shot)… Apple has the distinction of having coined the term “Personal Digital Assistant.” Apple CEO, John Sculley, made the first public usage of the phrase during a January 7, 1992 presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

1989’s Atari Portfolio? Surely that would be the first? It was made in the ‘80’s for Pete’s sake!

Nope. It wasn’t that one either.

Was it 1984’s Psion Organizer?

In 1984, the UK software company, Psion, made the jump into hand-held computers with the “Organizer”.

It had a distinctly “Calculator-like” look to it… but was most definitely a full computer.

The Psion Organizer from the November, 1984 issue of BYTE.

Note the full keyboard (with the letters laid out alphabetically instead of QWERTY). Even had a “Space” key.

The Organiser was powered by an HD6301X — an 8-Bit CPU that was a variant of the Motorola 6800 — clocking in at a whopping 0.9 MHz. Yes. Zero-point-9.

2KB of RAM, 4KB of ROM, and a single row (alpha-numeric) LCD.

Psion went so far as to declare the Organiser to be “The world’s first practical pocket computer.”

One extra cool bit: The Organiser had small memory cards — dubbed the “DATAPAKS” — which acted as removable storage.

These “DATAPAKS” were truly fascinating. They came in two versions — 8KB or 16KB — and were “Ultra-Violet-Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory”. These cards were “write-once”. Meaning you could write data to the card… and then that data cannot be easily deleted.

Want to erase your DATAPAK and start it over from a clean slate? That’s where the “Ultra-Violet-Erasable” part comes in. You could take in your used DATAPAKS to a Psion dealers, who were supplied with an “ultra violet eraser”, and they could (effectively) wipe the data off your cards.

The 4KB of ROM on the Organizer did not include much in the way of any real operating system. Simply small applications (a clock, a calculator, and a flat database).

That said, additional software was sold on DATAPAKS — including a programming language known as “POPL”, and various math and finance tools written in the POPL language.

From the Psion Organiser brochure.

Impressive! Fascinating! Weird! And while it lacked some of the features of later PDAs… it definitely counts as one!

But… was it the first? Nope. Definitely not.

How about 1980’s Tandy Pocket Computer?

Let’s go all the way back to July of 1980.

Empire Strikes Back and Caddyshack were dominating the box office and Funkytown ruled the airwaves.

And a little company called Tandy released the TRS-80 Pocket Computer (also known as the “Sharp PC-1211”).

This little, hand-held beauty was powered by two 4-Bit CPUs (the SC43177 and the SC43178) clocking in at 256 kHz. That’s 1/4 of a MHz.

1.5KB of RAM. A 24 character LCD screen. A QWERTY keyboard plus a 10-key number pad. Full BASIC programming language, built-in. Which made it easy to make it do… just about whatever you wanted.

All with a battery life of between 200 and 300 hours. Seriously.

There was, however, no permanent form of memory storage. For that you needed to purchase a cassette interface (which was pretty common among various computers of the time).

Considering this beast came out in 1980, it is surprisingly svelte. Weighing only 6 ounces (roughly the weight of an iPhone) and — while not super tiny — it is small enough to fit in a large coat pocket. (You definitely won’t be putting the Pocket Computer in your jeans, however.)

Despite the limitations… it definitely qualifies as a PDA.

The Conclusion!

After careful consideration, The Lunduke Journal is prepared to declare a winner in our search for the world’s first PDA…

The Radio Shack / Tandy TRS-80 Pocket Computer.

It is, without question, the first computer to meet our definition of a “PDA”. And, besides that, it is simply a really cool little computer.

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Because the universe is never quite as cut and dried as we’d like it to be, what follows are a conclusive list of “firsts” within the PDA world.

  • The 1st PDA ever — 1980’s Tandy Pocket Computer

  • The 1st PDA with built-in long-term storage — 1984’s Psion Organiser

  • The 1st PDA that looked and acted like a modern PDA — 1992’s Tandy Zoomer

  • The 1st PDA to actually use the term “PDA” — 1992’s Apple Newton

  • The 1st PDA that was also a cell phone — 1994’s IBM Simon

There you go. Now, if you see someone say something like “the first PDA was the Apple Newton”… you can set them straight. (I’m looking at you, Time Magazine.)

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The Tandy Zoomer -- The x86 PDA before the Palm Pilot
A 1992 handheld, with multitasking, that could access AOL. Wild.

The 1996 release of the first Palm Pilot was, in the minds of many, the first truly successful launch of a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). But the seeds of the Palm Pilot were planted several years earlier.

In fact the company behind the Palm Pilot, “Palm Computing Inc.”, was founded back in 1992 for the sole purpose of creating software for another just released PDA… the Tandy Zoomer.

The Tandy Zoomer

Also known as the “Tandy Z-PDA”, “Casio Z-7000”, and “AST GRiDpad” (all essentially the same hardware sold by different brands) was a truly groundbreaking — and fascinating — device.

Fun fact: The name “Zoomer” was used as a shortened, slang-y version of “consumer”. Get it? “Conzoomer”? Seriously. That’s the reason behind the name.

The Zoomer (aka “Z-PDA”) with the address book. Note that fields can be ASCII text or doodles.

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