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Now How Much Would You Pay (For Linux)?

How much would it cost to create a Linux distribution from scratch -- assuming, that is, Linux didn't exist yet? The Linux Foundation crunched some numbers and came up with an answer: around $10.8 billion.

How much would it cost to create a Linux distribution from scratch -- assuming, that is, Linux didn't exist yet? The Linux Foundation crunched some numbers and came up with an answer: around $10.8 billion.

The whole accounting exercise is available in a report released just this morning, "Estimating the Total Development Cost of a Linux Distribution". Their way of computing the $10.8bn figure was to take the Fedora 9 distribution -- kernel, packages, the whole open source enchilada -- and used an open source software cost estimation tool to calculate the cost of paying a conventional proprietary software development team to create all of that.

The exact methodology is all laid out in the paper: how many lines of source code, how many programmers, how many person-years (or "mythical man-months", depending on the depth of your cynicism about such things), and the possible advantages and pitfalls to their analysis. Biggest possible thorn: "The [analysis] model was designed from research on proprietary software development" -- meaning, there might not be a one-to-one correlation between the way software is developed in both proprietary and open spheres.

The numbers don't even have to be the real reason to read this report; for all I know they could be in there just to have something to wave under the nose of the local PHB. The real reasons, to me, are twofold: