An inevitable part of the new-year ritual is the posting of predictions for
the coming twelve months. Your editor, having access to a moderately high
soapbox, feels it would be morally wrong to fail to make use of that
soapbox to make an absolute fool out of himself. To that end, here are a
few ideas for what we might see in the coming year. As always, these
predictions are offered in the hope that they will be useful, but they
carry NO WARRANTY regarding any correspondence with reality as experienced
in your timezone or as to whether they make sense at all.
This will be the year for free desktop infrastructure
. Yes, there
will be a long series of high-profile application releases, with
OpenOffice.org 2.0 being, arguably, at the top of the list. But 2005 will
be the year when projects like HAL
see wide deployment, and when the reinvigorated X.Org development team
starts making some truly big strides. The kernel's support for
contemporary video cards will be rationalized and improved. Perhaps there
will even be a place for Mono. The convergence of all this new, low-level
support code, combined with increased cooperation between desktop projects
for low-level support, will build the base for the next generation of
amazing free desktop applications.
Free databases will see some high-profile deployments. The adoption
of free database management systems is still in an early stage. Things
will progress in 2005, to the point that some proprietary database vendors
will see the need to start competing directly against the free
alternatives. Perhaps 2005 is when we'll see some real free database FUD.
There will be no 2.7 kernel in 2005, despite the requests for such a
release from some quarters. The 2.6 process will continue to merge changes
at a staggering rate, and nothing will come along which is so disruptive
that it forces the creation of a new development series. The steady series
of complaints about the quality of the 2.6 mainline releases will force
some changes to the process - we may see more frequent releases or true
"release candidates" for wider testing. But the simple fact is that the
kernel developers - and the distributors who have the job of delivering
stable kernels to their customers - are happy with things as they are, and
will not be in a hurry to go back to the older way of doing things.
Red Hat will find something to do with its cash pile
. The company
currently has about $1 billion (almost half of its market
capitalization) in the bank - much of that cash is the result of a debt
sale one year ago. As Red Hat's management tries to push the company's
stock price back up, it will have to find something more productive to do
with that money. It would not be surprising to see an acquisition or two
happen in the near future.
The market for not-quite-enterprise distributions will grow. There
are no end of companies looking to gain the benefits of switching to Linux,
but who do not want to pay the hefty "enterprise Linux" price tag. Many of
these companies will realize that high-quality Linux can be had for less,
and will look to companies with credible support offerings. Companies like
Progeny, Ubuntu, and Specifix may be well placed to thrive in this market.
The UserLinux distributed support network model looks an awful lot like the
early Red Hat "support partner" program, and risks ending up the same way.
Embedded Linux will gain a higher profile, especially as a base for
a new round of "personal media player" gadgets. Expect some fireworks as
some of these devices - and their built-in DRM schemes - prove to be more
hackable than the entertainment industry would like.
Very few companies will buy Linux indemnification policies, making
life difficult for insurance vendors like OSRM.
Debian will get a new stable release out
, one way or another. Much
of the user base for stable Debian releases will, however, have moved on to
offshoot distributions like Ubuntu. There will be a new round of
soul-searching within the Debian Project over the value of its stable
distribution and what that distribution should be.
Community involvement in Fedora will increase, mostly through
outside maintenance of some non-core packages. Red Hat will maintain a
firm grip on important decisions, however. Don't expect to see an open
Fedora developers' conference in 2005.
Legal and political
Thanks to serious activism and the entry of several countries into the EU,
software patents will not be enacted in Europe in 2005. One thing
your editor has seen many times, however, is that the commercial forces
behind this kind of legislation do not ever give up. While their current
push looks to be headed for failure, the issue will remain, and the fight
will go on.
A new round of copyright legislation will hit the U.S. Congress.
The entertainment industry will attempt to strengthen its control and find
some sort of legislative solution to file sharing over increasingly
decentralized networks. Fair use activists will try again for copyright
and DMCA reform. Neither side is likely to get far. The entertainment
industry may get caught engaging in increasingly dirty denial of service
attacks on peer-to-peer networks and their users.
This one should be fairly obvious: 2005 will see the end of SCO.
The company's remaining cases will fall apart in court, and its cash will
run out. In retrospect, it will become clear that the SCO lawsuit has
actually been a good thing for free software: it has proved how clean our
code is now, made developers more aware of the potential for such lawsuits
in the future, and has made many large companies take a clear position in
the defense of free software. The next company that tries to extract
payments from the free software business world will find a climate which is
far less hospitable to that sort of litigation; for this reason, your
editor believes there will not be a new major intellectual property suit
related to Linux in the coming year.
More people will notice that Linux users don't have spyware and adware
, which will be getting steadily worse on other platforms.
This issue, alone, will cause more people to look at free software. Many
will get their feet wet with Firefox and stop there, but others will take
the full plunge. As proprietary systems are turned into zombies which spam
and spy on their alleged owners, pure exasperation will push a new round of
Your editor expects many things to continue as they have been. An
increasing number of developers will work to create ever more powerful
applications. More and more people will awaken to the value of free
software, and they will look seriously at using it. Some people will even
figure out ways to make money from it. And, inevitably, Linux will
continue to be fun - even for a grumpy editor.
to post comments)