Open source predictions for 2010

Jack Wallen
Dec 31, 2009
Updated • Nov 29, 2012

Is it really almost 2010? The first decade of 2k is nearly at an end, a decade that has been quite prosperous for the Linux operating system. A decade that saw the world's economy plummet, giving rise to the need for more and more free, open source software. But what will the next decade bring for Linux and open source? And even more to the point, what will the next year bring for Linux and open source?

In this piece I will do my best to try to predict what is in store for Linux and open source. Of course, as with any prediction, nothing is for sure; but hopefully these predictions will give you an idea where FOSS software is heading.

Linux takes over mobile market

This prediction is one of the more certain to come true. With more and more powerful phone arriving on the market with the Android operating system and the netbook hardware gaining more power and more Linux-based options (Moblin and Chrome OS for example), the mobile space seems ripe for a Linux takeover in 2010. Of course there have been many who would argue that netbook sales have declined, it has been predicted that netbook sales will top 50 million by 2012. But to this I would suggest that (although I am not a huge fan) cloud computing is going to even further enhance the Linux netbook sales. Because the Linux operating system was made to be networked, it is a perfect candidate to serve as the operating system the cloud will reach out to. And finally, although Windows 7 is proving itself to be an outstanding release, it is not the best fit for the netbook space. The modularity and flexibility of Linux, on the other hand, is perfectly matched for the smaller, portable form factor.

More consumer-level support

I started seeing this growing in 2009. A lot of big vendors are now seeing the viability of Linux and open source. From mobile phones, netbooks, laptops, and desktops - the makers of hardware are finally catching on. 2009 saw the rise of companies like System76 who sell Linux (and only Linux) machines. This trend will continue and catch on with bigger and bigger vendors to the point where we should start seeing Linux machines sold in big box stores near the end of  2010.

Firefox and Chrome become the dominant browsers

It's already happening. Firefox has slowly become one of the most popular of all the browsers. And with good reason. But Chrome has proven to be a different beast all together. With no other browser able to match its speed, Chrome will make serious headway into the browser-space. And Chrome should also benefit when the Chrome OS starts shipping on netbooks! So, between these two browsers, the landscape will be completely changed and Internet Explorer will finally plummet from the top of the browser war. Once that happens, the battle between Firefox and Chrome will seriously heat up.

GPL and LGPL will do battle

It has already begin. When Miguel de Icaza stripped all GPL code from the Monodevelop tool, the FOSS community lashed out. He did this with good reason - so that third-party add ons could be introduced to the tool without having to GPL the code of the add ons. But to the open source community, it's all or nothing. This is going to start an ugly battle that will most likely end with a new variation of the current GPL v2 (no one wants to deal with GPL v3). I predict more and more larger open source projects will be releasing under the LGPL, causing the GPL to be seriously rethought. The Richard Stallmans of the FOSS community will most likely be dealing with high blood pressure this year.

GNOME 3 will ruffle feathers

Remember when KDE 4 was released? The Linux community was dramatically split into those that hated the new version and those who loved the new version. GNOME 3 is going to have the same effect - but with a different conclusion. When GNOME 3 is finally released (even in beta), it will be far less buggy than was KDE 4's initial release. GNOME 3 will be a bit of a paradigm shift for the Linux desktop, but that paradigm will at least work well. The GNOME developers have always had the big picture and the users in mind when developing (except for that Spatial behavior in Nautilus). So, although the radically different GNOME 3 (for information on GNOME 3 check out the 3.0 website.) looks like it could be one of the most exciting releases to come from the GNOME developers, the user community is in an uproar. This uproar is due, in part, to the KDE 4.0 fiasco. Fear not, GNOME users, the GNOME developers have learned from what transpired with KDE 4.0 and will not release a GNOME 3 that is less than functional.

Open source video drivers equal proprietary drivers

We already saw this happening with the release of Ubuntu 9.10 and Intel on board graphics chips. The open source drivers necessary for Intel graphics now match the proprietary solutions feature for feature. The Linux 2.6.33 kernel will greatly boost support for ATI and NVidia graphics chipsets. With the holy-trinity of graphics card support in place, Linux video issues will be a thing of the past. The next step? Unsupported wireless drivers.

Final thoughts

I have been saying (and hearing) this for a long, long time; but I do believe that 2010 will finally be the year Linux and open source receives the support and acceptance it deserves. Not all of my predictions will come true, but many of them will. Do you have a prediction for Linux and open source software? If so, share it with your fellow Ghacks readers.


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  1. Igor Shubovych said on January 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for not including this point
    “This year will be year of Linux Desktop”

    Generally agree with article, but I suppose some items are plans for 2-5 years, not for one. E.g. mobile market, browser wars and video drivers.

  2. Stomfi said on January 3, 2010 at 4:33 am

    A nice safe analysis for the American market.
    One problem with computer industry predictions are the differences between the USA world and the rest of us. An American company like Microsoft can rely on its own country’s 300 million people to support itself. People in Asia, South America, and Europe, like the independence from American dominance Linux gives them and show different trends.
    One must look at the last 50 years of real innovation when it happened, rather than rely on add ons, eye candy, and form factors to predict what is going to happen in the next ten years. Within this limited set of innovations the work being done by the OLPC and games consoles are making big changes to the way the computer interface and its network are used.
    While the status quo of last century’s client server technology, tries to limit change by promoting cloud computing, I predict the next big change will be caused by WiFi redundant data and computing grids.

  3. Earl said on January 2, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Prediction: Firefox will surpass IE before the next presidential election.

  4. Artem S. Tashkinov said on December 31, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    > Firefox and Chrome become the dominant browsers

    I don’t see it happening. Firefox has already surpassed IE6/7/8 if we count them separately, but IE as a whole is still unreachable for Firefox.

    > GPL and LGPL will do battle

    They only battle in your imagination. I see quite the opposite trend – more and more libraries are released as LGPL. (Take e.g. Qt).

    > GNOME 3 will ruffle feathers

    Exactly, ’cause KDE4 almost started anew, and Gnome will mainly introduce a new shell while all the underlying libraries will only be slightly improved.

    > Open source video drivers equal proprietary drivers

    It will not happen even in 2015. Pardon, for some features like 2D acceleration and XVideo features they can surpass the proprietary drivers, but for 3D acceleration – not, that’s not going to happen, because 3D is a very murky area, where some acceleration algorithms are only available to those who know the interior of hardware (thus, highly patented, etc.).

  5. Technology Blog said on December 31, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    wow, great analysis! Linux and OSS have great future ahead though.

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