Predictions, as they say, are hard - especially when they involve the
future. It's easy to get them wrong and look like a total fool. Your
editor, however, has long since gotten over his fear of coming across as a
total idiot in front of large numbers of people; when you have already
tipped your hand, there is no point in holding back any longer. So here's a
few things which, in your editor's view, might just come to pass in 2007.
As always, these predictions come with no warranty whatsoever.
Version 3 of the GPL will be adopted, perhaps after one more draft
round. Your editor has no clue of how the FSF will respond to the
criticisms of their anti-DRM provisions. If that language remains, uptake
of the new license will be somewhat lower; the FSF may try to avoid that
scenario by making "distribution on restrictive hardware without the
associated keys" an optional permission which can be granted by the
Somebody will be sued for distributing proprietary kernel modules.
Threats of lawsuits have been muttered for some time, but the late-2006
discussion on banning those modules made it clear that GPL infringement
suits are the strongest weapon available to those who oppose proprietary
modules. Given the way the frustration level is rising, it is only a
matter of time until somebody uses that weapon.
We will see the end of SCO in 2007. Chances are that the company's
case against IBM will not even survive until the planned trial date in the
(northern hemisphere) fall. Look for fun around March, when dispositive
motions can be heard.
There will be serious talk of patent reform in the U.S. The EFF is
unlikely to succeed in its attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to throw
out patents on software altogether; the current chief justice places a
heavy emphasis on deciding no more than the current case requires, and
software patents are not at issue in that case. But the
pain caused by these patents is severe and growing; something will
eventually have to be done. Whether that "something" will help to lift the
clouds of legal uncertainty from free software remains to be seen, however.
Linux will have fewer problems with closed hardware one year from
now. There is already a clear path to support for most wireless network
adapters. On the video front, a palpable determination to address the
problem has come together over the last year. The Nouveau project can be
expected to make significant progress over the next twelve months, and developers
are beginning to talk about a project to support ATI's R500 engine. A
decision by AMD to open up ATI's hardware would be a nice bonus. But,
either way, the need to solve this problem is well understood, and
developers are increasingly interested in attacking it.
Closed hardware problems will not go away, however. The content
industry, with Microsoft's help, is pushing for a new generation of
hardware which is intended to be "trusted" not to give too much control to
its owner. "Trusted content paths" are fundamentally incompatible with
free software. So we will continue to have trouble in carrying out
straightforward tasks - like watching movies - on our free systems until
the industry comes to its senses.
The war on bloat will get serious as people get tired of running out
of memory. The increasing use of Linux on small and embedded systems will
also create pressure for lower resource usage. Tools are emerging which
will help developers track down wasted memory; their employment should lead
to leaner systems for all of us.
The previous item notwithstanding, Java will move into the free software
community as Sun follows through on its promised code releases. Thus
far, the amount of free software written in Java has been relatively
small. Once free Java support is available for all Linux systems, the
number of developers of free Java code can be expected to grow.
Fedora will come into its own as a free, community-oriented
distribution. Fedora's transition from a corporate product into a
community product has been slow at best, and it is far from complete. The
right things are happening, however; the combination of a more open
process, a 100% free software policy, and a high-quality base should lead
to good things.
Debian will get the Etch release out this year. Honest. What could
possibly go wrong? Thereafter, the Debian developers will go back to
arguing about firmware in the kernel.
Free software will move into online gaming as a critical mass of
interested developers comes together. Many of the necessary pieces exist
now as free software, and the possibility of acquiring some cast-off
corporate code still exists. Meanwhile, Second Life has shown the possibilities
inherent in hackable online platforms. These environments are too much fun
- and too much a part of our future - to leave to the proprietary software
The Microsoft/Novell deal will blow over with few consequences.
Most of the angry ink has already been spilled, and it still seems unlikely
that Microsoft will launch a patent attack against Linux. Novell
will have lost credibility in the community, and may yet lose more
developers, but it has not really changed the nature of the patent threat.
The "open source" term will take a beating as various semi-open
companies try to look like free software operations. Some companies have
already needed to be told to take the "open source" label off their code;
others will certainly follow. The need felt by
these companies to attach non-free provisions to their licenses may lead to
the creation of a "shared-source"-like replacement term by the end of the
The first round of OLPC systems will be distributed to millions of
children in the developing world. That much can be predicted by looking at
the project's timeline. Much harder to predict is what will happen
when millions of children learn to use systems which are open,
Linux-powered, and network-connected. This project may well change the
free software community - and the world as a whole.
Desktop Linux will grow as corporate managers realize they already
have more desktop systems deployed than they had thought.
As always, these predictions will be reviewed in December of this year.
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