Hewlett-Packard Plunks Down $500,000 To Help Linux—And Maybe Send Microsoft A Signal

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Hewlett-Packard has become a Platinum member of the Linux Foundation , the organization responsible for Linux and other open-source software projects.

A Platinum membership costs $500,000 a year and brings with it a seat on the board of directors and a say in which kinds of projects the group pursues.

Linux is a free operating system whose source is open—published on the Web and available for anyone to contribute fixes or upgrades.  Over the years, versions of it from players like Red Hat, SUSE, and Canonical have become popular alternatives to Microsoft Windows Server. Linux is also used as an operating system built into non-computer gadgets, like some of HP's printers.

So HP has been involved with the Linux Foundation for a long time. But the reason for it to step up its contributions is getting a bigger say in the cloud.  HP needs to ramp up its own cloud-computing offerings and sell servers to enterprises building their own private clouds.

Another cloud player, Citrix, had the same thought. It too increased its membership today, to the Gold level.

Interestingly, now that HP has become a Linux power player, it leads to some interesting questions about HP's PC business.

Linux is also available for PCs, although it's not a very popular choice on desktops compared to Windows or Macs. But Microsoft has HP in a headlock. HP's PC business accounts for about one-third of the company's revenue and the company is stuck with Windows, even as Microsoft competes with HP with its own Surface tablet.

Closer ties with the Linux Foundation could signal that HP may want to look at Linux as a way out of that headlock. Linux is a particularly good choice for low-cost PCs sold in in developing markets like Asia.

HP joins other Linux Foundation platinum members like Fujitsu, IBM, Intel, NEC, Oracle, Samsung, and Qualcomm.



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