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.
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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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.