Tuesday, 1 January 2008

What does 2008 have in store?

I've done a round-up of the most significant events for Linux in 2007, so what's next? What we can expect in 2008, of course! Here's my expectations for events in this new year:
  • The Year of the Linux Desktop - Hell, no! This concept is utterly flawed. When did you ever hear anyone talking about the Year of the Windows Desktop? Linux is growing steadily, which is healthy. There likely won't be a sudden huge surge in Linux usage, just a gradual increase in usage. It will likely creep up on everyone. However, it might well be that 2008 is the year that Linux comes to the notice of the man in the street, as driven by Vista's poor reception, people may be more willing to investigate alternatives. Still, don't expect miracles.
  • More subnotebooks using Linux - The Eee PC and the One Laptop Per Child have made it clear that Linux is ideal for use in small, cheap computers that don't really have enough oomph for Windows. In particular, the Eee PC is proving extremely successful, and at the moment it's basically cornered the market in subnotebook computers, but you can bet your life that Asus's competitors are keeping their eyes on what is happening, and they may well be making their own plans to move into this market. Some may no doubt wind up using a Windows-based OS, but many more will follow Asus's example and use Linux - Xubuntu in particular may be well suited to this since Xfce is so lightweight. After all, Linux is not only more lightweight than Windows, but most distros are free, meaning that there will be a significant price difference between Windows and Linux-based ones. Add to that the fact that Microsoft might well need to create a new version of Windows to cater to these devices, whereas Linux is already very portable. All this means greater market share for Linux.
  • More OEM's offering preinstalled Linux - I mentioned this in my post about the events of 2007. Dell's preinstalled Ubuntu offerings have been quite successful, and other OEM's have been looking into doing this as well. Asus and Lenovo have made some moves towards doing so, and there have been rumours about Hewlett-Packard doing so as well so it's not entirely off the wall to suggest that other vendors may consider doing so. It's likely to remain a niche offering, but I wouldn't be surprised if at least one more large vendor starts offering preinstalled Linux. Just don't expect Apple to join in!
  • More budget computers running Linux available from supermarkets - 2007 saw the launch of the gPC in the US through Wal-Mart, and a PC with preinstalled Ubuntu in the UK through Tesco. The gPC went down a storm, and I just looked at Tesco Direct and their Ubuntu PC is sold out, so I guess that must be doing OK too. Perhaps it's not unreasonable to expect that the Wal-Mart owned Asda in the UK may soon start selling the gPC as well. Other chains may get in on the act as well.
  • Better driver support - In 2007, there was an offer by Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman to write Linux drivers for any piece of hardware for the manufacturers and the response was overwhelming. This may very likely yield better drivers for Linux for a long time to come. 2008 is the year when I expect to see these new drivers begin to appear in the kernel in large numbers and in subsequent distributions. I'm not going to say that all hardware problems with Linux are over (not by a long shot, as not all manufacturers will want to participate) but it may well be that fewer people will have problems with their hardware when they try Linux, encouraging them to stick with it.
  • Android beginning to make its presence felt - I really don't know whether Android will be a success (I hope so) but 2008 is the year it will become available, so expect to see the first mobile phones running it later this year.
  • Maybe, just maybe, high street electrical retailers may start selling preinstalled Linux - I'm really doubtful about this, the likes of Dixons and PC World are actually lagging behind Tesco in this. But it's not completely out of the question that one or two high-street vendors may actually consider selling preinstalled Linux, based on the success it has seen this year. I remain very sceptical, but I believe it could potentially happen this year.
That's about all I can suggest really. Obviously, most of this is just a continuation of existing trends. We may well see some completely off-the-wall things - entirely new distros (since gOS came out of nowhere), devices with embedded Linux and other things. Equally we're quite likely to see Microsoft flailing around, desperately trying to maintain their market share - more patent claims and other FUD aren't out of the question. Overall, I think 2008 may well be a good year for desktop Linux.

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