Say Hello to the Open Source Decade
Open Source has been around for quite some time, but odds are most people you ask won't know what "open source" is. This isn't because open source is obscure, but rather it has slipped into the mainstream, and unless you're already in the know, there's no real reason you will have noticed it.
But open source is here, and it's growing.
Linux was written by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Linux itself was based on earlier incomplete kernels that themselves were available for reworking and building upon. When Torvalds licensed Linux under the GNU public license, there was mostly scoffing in the media, with a small minority of voices predicting widespread growth in the future. Now a majority of web servers worldwide are running Linux (see Wikipedia, above), and Linux dominates the supercomputer market and adoption in high-end special effects houses in Hollywood. Linux also powers auto electronics, weapons systems, and an increasing number of desktop, laptop and netbook computers.
My prediction: Linux distros will continue to gain desktop and laptop popularity as they develop more usability and visual style improvements. Ultimately, though, it will take hardware driver maker support (or replacement) to create the happy turn-on-and-use experience most non-geeks want out of a computer. Usability is a hard thing to design by committee, but once it starts kicking in, I don't see much of anything holding Linux back. (And no, I don't see computers going away altogether. The cloud is nice, but with all that local processing power there is a great opportunity for cooler, better apps that can leverage that cloud far better than a generic browser. [Not to mention privacy and security concerns that will always hound an open network.] I may be way off on this one, but I don't think so.)
Last week Firefox 3.5 became the world's #1 browser release, edging out Internet Explorer 7. Of course, when you add in Internet Explorer 8 and the dead-but-not-buried Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft still holds the largest market share. Still, as ZDNet's Paula Rooney notes, open source has been putting the squeeze on IE.
The days of Internet Explorer’s dominance appear to be waning. Of course, Microsoft’s Windows operating system monopoly still owns the market, but we’re not sure how long that will matter, especially as software-as-a-service models take off and Google’s web-focused operating system is prepped for release.
As Microsoft’s grip on the browser market loosens, opportunities for open source rivals are blossoming. It will be interesting to see which of the two top open source browsers benefits most in 2009 [sic].
My prediction: Indeed, 2010 will be interesting for the browser market. Firefox will continue to grow, but Google Chrome, especially with Google's banner ad-driven marketing push, could be #1 by 2011, pushing IE8 and IE9 out of any hope for the #1 release spot. And this will be huge as webapps and software-as-a-service continue to take up more of the usage market from desktop apps. In fact, this latter development will push Microsoft hard to fall in line with web standards and fight to keep up with the far larger open source development communities of its browser competitors.
Android is the open source (Linux-based) operating system for handhelds that is powering a small but growing number of smart phones, including the Motorola Droid and the new Google Phone that was given to Google employees as a holiday gift. Forrester predicts Android smartphones will have 10% market share by end of 2010. I would be surprised if it's not more. (Want a Droid? I do!)
As for Linux Girl's hopes and predictions? Her eyes are on netbooks, Android and other portable devices as the area where Linux will continue to gain major ground.
The masses are getting used to Linux whether they realize it or not, even as the desktop begins to slowly fade away. Forget the Year of Linux on the Desktop, and get ready for the Year of Linux in Consumers' Hands! Can't ask for much more than that.
My prediction: Android phones will have the buzz at end of 2010. By 2020, Android will be around in some form, morphed to suit whatever devices people are using then, but I have no idea if Apple will be still rocking then. Maybe the iPhone will be seen only in museums?
Open but less known
Drupal drops up
And Drupal is not alone in the open source CMS market. See Dee-Ann Leblanc on what's coming for Open Source CMSs in 2010.
My prediction: With the new Drupal 7 coming just around the corner, expect to see another spike in Drupal buzz and Drupal usage. And with the new features and structures in place, also expect the Drupal market to change in very interesting ways. (N.B.: This site is running Drupal since 2006.)
MySQL is your SQL
This database that powers so many apps you can't even begin to count
CIO's Nancy Weil predicts that Oracle will make the open source MySQL database system a core part of its Unbreakable Linux package.
My prediction: If Oracle tries to clamp down on MySQL, one or two other open source database projects — including a new or existing fork of MySQL — will emerge and come to a rising market share within a year.
Inscape and Blender and GIMP (oh my!)
Open source design programs are just getting better. Inkscape does a lot what Adobe Illustrator does. GIMP is an open source photo manipulation program that will do what most people use Adobe Photoshop for. Blender is a respectable open source 3D animation program. These applications are not new, but I expect their use to only increase as they continue to evolve.
My prediction: Expect the predicted Adobe CS5 release in 2010, and its predictable (high) pricing, to drive more buzz and market to these open source alternatives. But Blender will need a high profile adopter to get similar buzz.
Open Office market not so micro
Open Office is the open source desktop software suite that comes close to replacing Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It's not perfect, but can fit the bill if you're finding Microsoft Office's pricing a bit too dear.
My prediction: Open Office will continue to eek out minor gains in the private user market, but will struggle to convince conservative and under-budgeted IT managers in corporations and government agencies to adopt a new, unfamiliar product. However, 10 years from now....? A lot can happen in 10 years.
Why oh why is open source so popular?
While open source software — or at least the most successful examples of open source software — is free, I don't think that's why this will be the open source decade. Rather, it's that open source is open.
Cost does come into play, but indirectly ... on the supplier side. Open source is disrupting many markets where scarcity enforced by proprietary software licenses drove up costs. With the commons competing in development, that scarcity is challenged, effectively driving down those nice profit margins that made people like Bill Gates rich.
And if there's interest to take it into a new direction, there's nothing to stop them. Forks happen.
So as long as there's community interest (read: demand) for the product, it's not going to die. This software is not going to disappear unless people stop being interested in using it.
For example, just because Android was primarily developed by Google, it doesn't mean Android is dependent upon Google to continue to evolve. On the contrary. Just because Drupal was created by Dries Buytaert doesn't mean that, if Dries decides to quit software and go do pottery in Bali, Drupal will crumble. The Linux industry has grown way beyond the origination by Linus Torvalds or its corporate distribution by Red Hat.
What does this mean to you? Nothing, if you want to ignore it. But if you are paying attention, it could mean opportunities.
As a consumer, it might influence your buying decisions. For example, I would be much more comfortable buying an Android phone than a phone powered by Windows. I had lived for over a year with a Palm 700P, which ran the proprietary Palm OS, which was outmoded and little supported. I have no idea whether Palm will be around much longer, so I don't know if I would consider a Palm anything unless it was at least running an open sourced (and well supported) OS. Buy an Android phone and odds are you will be able to continue to buy phones in the future running Android, with the same familiar interface (albeit always improving). No company is going to EOL Android. No company can.
As an entrepreneur, open source might present a business opportunity. What? Without proprietary software? How is that possible? Well, let's look at other industries. Plumbing is essentially open source. There are no big secrets, just acquired know-how that comes from doing the work. And yet plumbers have businesses in every town with plumbing. Law is open source. The law is there for all to see. But if you learn it sufficiently, you can build a practice into a lucrative career.
In other words, business does not require secrets.
This doesn't mean that all proprietary softwares are going away. Not at all. But I do expect that in 10 years most people will have a pretty good idea what open source means to them, or at least will be pretty big consumers of open source products.
Mark my words.
Also perhaps of interest:
A Forbes article on Elinor Ostrom, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for her work "explaining how real-life commons work, especially in managing natural resources."
Other predictive (if not predictable) reads: