Thursday, February 7, 2013

Open Source and Linux in 2023

Live free or die, the motto of New Hampshire o...
Live free or die, the motto of New Hampshire on its state quarter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by Guest Author: Adrian Bridgwater

I don't profess to be able to accurately predict the state of Open Source and Linux in 2023
any better than the next man or woman, but there are a few trends percolating through
the wider fabric of the open computing cosmos that could give us some pointers if we look

The first lesson when trying to look forward is to forget 2023. A decade away is a bad
time frame. Do you want to know when the next big thing and the next killer app, platform,
computing delivery paradigm, device form factor change and software service going to
come along?

The answer is simple i.e. five years. A half of a decade is the only digestible portion of time
for any reasonable technology prediction. Just look back to 2007 (OK that's five and a bit
years) when we first saw Android arrive and consider how deeply embedded this mobile
version of the Linux kernel is in terms of adoption and acceptance.

So desktop or mobile iteration regardless, Linux's next job (over this next five years) is
to clarify its cost model. When we hear companies label themselves as open source, we
need to know what they really mean. Is a portion of one set of their libraries open to some
community contribution? Is it freemium, or is it a truly free and open source (free as in
beer, as WELL as in speech) model.

Is a particular Linux-based offering open in the widest and broadest sense, but in practical
terms so restrictive and non-community focused that any clear line of heritage to Linux or
open source pedigree becomes almost impossible to find?

Remember Jonathan Schwartz's parting words at his last JavaOne conference before Oracle
stepped in--he said: "The software is free, we're just there to sell you the maintenance and
support when you need it."

Canonical is of course pushing hard to present Ubuntu on the desktop (and yes, now on
mobile too) as a viable alternative to Windows 8 for those that can't stomach the Metro
interface. But a deeper and somehow as yet still intangible level of viral user adoption
appears to be some way off.

Linux has always performed well at the server level, this we know to be true. Whether
the deployment of Linux across datacentres born to serve the cloud computing model
of service based information technology will in some way give the brand broader user
acceptance is hard to say. Actually, it probably won't even though its presence in the cloud
can't hurt.

More than anything then, the use of consumer-level Linux will be the determining factor.
This is what industry commentators like to call the "consumerisation of IT".  For example, people
taking their own laptops and smartphones into the workplace is why we talk about security
fears related to Bring Your Own Device practices. When "the people" start to use Linux more than the companies do, then we may see a wider and broader change.

The Document Foundation's staunch work with LibreOffice is the kind of activity that we
will need to see flourish further. This is technology that people really do want to use.

Adrian Bridgwater, Freelance Journalist
So, don't look one decade ahead. Look just a single five-year block ahead at any point in
time and think about what the community could be doing in that time frame.

As for the next big thing?

That's hard to pinpoint, but if it's Linux-based, then we could all be looking at a very different world.

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