2010. január 15., péntek

Open source in 2010

Is 2010 the "year of open source"? Probably not, but by the end of the year expect to see open source software everywhere.

So, we've made it through 2009 and the global financial turmoil and we're at the start of a brand new year. Being 2010, it would be convenient to be able to predict that this will be the "year of open source". But, of course, it won't be.

Proprietary software won't suddenly be wiped out by Linux and closed systems makers won't be forced to release their code under an open source licence.

But Linux and open source software are getting stronger and there are many things to look forward to this coming year.

Mobile Linux

2010 is going to be a huge year for open source software (OSS) in the mobile sector and we can expect to see OSS appearing on everything from mobile phones to netbooks to tablets.

Of course, thanks mostly to the open source Symbian operating system, open source is already the dominant player on mobile phones, despite the disproportional hype given to proprietary systems such as Apple's iPhone and RIM's Blackberry. But Nokia hasn't done a particularly good job of promoting Symbian's openness since it acquired it in 2008.

Google, on the other hand, has done wonders with its Android OS which is now right up there with the likes of the iPhone and is getting better all the time. Android will, without a doubt, be in the headlines throughout the coming year as Google takes other mobile makers on head-to-head.

But open source will also start appearing on devices other than just mobile phones. Google's Chrome OS and the Moblin OS are just a couple of the viable, Linux-based, alternatives for netbooks that will start to become important in the coming year.

A couple of years ago Linux look poised to take over the netbook market but Microsoft managed to claw back its dominance in this market with Windows XP.

This time around Microsoft may not be as lucky. There are indications that Linux now has its second wind and, together with a strong mobile phone presence, is ready to give Microsoft a serious fight in the ultra-portable space.


Open source has always been strong on the Internet and 2010 will be no different. Apache will continue to dominate in the web server space, as it has for so many years, and by the end of the year there is the strong possibility that the most popular web browsers will also be open source.

For years Internet Explorer has dominated this arena but its grip is loosening and Firefox and Google's Chrome are making huge strides in catching up. Firefox already has 25% market share and Chrome, although a way back, has managed to oust Apple's Safari as the third most popular browser.

IE does have a substantial lead at this point but has been declining steadily over the past year.

Gnome 3.0

We know that version 3.0 of Gnome, one of the most popular open source desktop interfaces, will be released this year. And we know that it is important for Gnome to get an interface overhaul.

What we don't know, however, is how much trouble that will cause in the open source world or how quickly it will be adopted by users.

Looking back to the initial release of KDE4 in 2007 - a Gnome rival - and the division it caused in the open source community we can only hope that Gnome developers have learned from that experience. KDE4, admittedly, was a far bigger rewrite of the underlying code than Gnome 3.0 will be but it's not always possible to predict exactly how users will react to a new interface.

Most popular Linux distributions will no doubt hold back on including Gnome 3.0 in their releases for the first few months as they wait to see what kind of fallout there is from the initial release. Either way, Gnome 3.0 will be an important step forward for the open source desktop which has started to feel a little dated over the past couple of years.

Slow but steady progress

Open source software may not be bracing to wipe out proprietary software in 2010 but its slow steady ascent will continue. In the process it will gradually change the face of IT as consumers become increasingly aware of alternatives to Windows and Mac OSX.

This doesn't mean that there will be a dramatic increase in the number of Linux-based PCs on your local retailer's shelves this year but there will be a gradual shift towards wider use of open source. Most of this will be organic growth as Linux users recommend it to their friends and family, who in turn spread the word. Microsoft won't allow mass Linux sales on shop shelves without a serious fight, but there is little the company can do to combat the underground growth of open source software.

2010 will also be a year in which users will start to look for alternatives to paid-for software.

Online services such as Google Docs and Zoho Office will open users' minds to new products and make them realise that free alternatives to proprietary, and often expensive, software are available.

In the world of business, open source will be an almost invisible but increasingly important part of enterprise systems. Everything from document sharing to VoIP to ERP will have an element of open source software in it, even if end users are unaware of it.

Even Microsoft will start playing a more open game, something the company started doing this year, as it realises that it is better to be part of the steady shift to OSS rather than its primary enemy.


Most hardware vendors will continue to increase their levels of support for Linux in the coming year. Historically support for Linux from hardware makers was almost non-existent and it was mostly thanks to community projects that Linux users were able to use even the most basic of hardware.

But, as Linux use increases on mobile phones, netbooks, laptops and desktops, consumer-level support from vendors will increase. Distributors such as Ubuntu will increase their OEM programmes in 2010, pushing out more Linux to end-users and most vendors from Dell to Lenovo to Asus will extend their range of Linux-based products. This will mean that a growing number of products will ship with at least basic Linux support. Which in turn will increase demand for products running Linux.

2010 will not be the year in which Linux and open source surge to dominance; the shift will continue to be slow and steady, just as it has been for many years now. But, by the end open source software will be entrenched in everything from mobile phones to desktops and from servers to netbooks.

Source: MyBoadband
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