It's that time of year again: the beginning of the new year - along with the
lack of much else going on - inspires editors to make predictions about
what they think may happen in the coming months. Your editor is not immune
to these forces, and he has long since ceased to fear the possibility of
looking like a fool in front of thousands of people. He's
looking like a fool in front of thousands of people. So, without further
ado, here's a set of wild guesses about what may await us in 2008.
Support for Flash media will reach a usable state in 2008 - at
least, on the playback side. The ability to waste time on video sites
using only free software will doubtless prove appealing for many Linux
users, while the ability to display Flash-based advertising may prove less
so. But Flash is an important medium for video content and various types
of interaction; good, free support for this medium is an important
prerequisite for true World Domination. Arguably even more important is
the ability to create Flash media on Linux, but that will take a
little longer to come around.
KDE 4.0 will be released early in the year. This is a huge,
milestone release for the KDE development community, but the developers who
have worked so hard toward this goal may find the user community's response
a little disappointing. For all of the great work which has gone into 4.0,
it remains a dot-zero release, and a big one at that. The remaining bugs
and missing features are certain to put off some early adopters. One need
only think back to the early GNOME 2.x releases, though, to realize that
this is a normal part of the development process and that things will get
much better quickly.
The focus on power consumption will intensify this year, continuing
a trend from 2007. Linux should, by all rights, consume less power than
competing systems on the same hardware - but it doesn't. We now have the
tools to identify and track down the worst offenders in this area, and we
have the low-level support needed to make low-power Linux possible. Mobile
applications may continue to drive this push, but there may be even more
low-hanging fruit on fixed systems. There is just no end of reasons to
reduce power consumption on all systems running Linux, and we're now in a
position to get that job done.
The merging of the realtime Linux tree will be substantially
complete by the end of the year. Your editor is out on a limb here;
the remaining realtime code includes some of the most intrusive changes.
But distributors are shipping this code now, and it has been well tested in
a number of environments. So it seems likely that, by the end of 2008, the
mainline Linux kernel will be fully capable of running in a realtime mode.
Legal issues and related overhead
The OOXML standardization debate will continue, and Microsoft may
well prevail in getting its document format recognized as a standard by the
end of the year. The free software community will react as it always has -
it's just another data format to support.
More projects will move to GPLv3 in 2008, creating occasional
fallout at the distributor level when newly-created licensing conflicts are
found. The most interesting potential change is the GNU C library, which
remains at LGPL 2.1 as of this writing. A GPLv3-licensed glibc would
have to be user-replaceable, which could be problematic on locked-down
devices. So, if this change happens, expect a increased interest in
alternative C libraries for embedded applications.
GPL enforcement activities will continue and may even increase.
Patience with companies which use the code without complying with its
license is at a low point, and that will not change. Chances are that,
once again, almost every company which is confronted on GPL-violation
issues will come into compliance without going to court.
There will be no more Microsoft patent deals, at least with
companies of any significance. Those who are inclined to make such
agreements have already done so; the holdouts are unlikely to change their
minds at this point.
Commercial and related
The OLPC project will start to think seriously about the successor
to the XO. There will be many opportunities to build a platform which can
be even more empowering for small children; for example, the GNU Radio
folks are already pondering ways to bring
software-defined radio capabilities to this machine. Meanwhile,
deployments of the XO will continue to happen and we'll see the first
effects of putting truly free systems into the hands of children. Some of
those effects will certainly surprise us.
The days of hardware support hassles will be over. By the end of
2008, we should have good support for ATI graphics adapters, Atheros
wireless chipsets, and even, via the Nouveau project, NVidia adapters.
There will always be exceptions, but the rule will be clear: we will be
able to buy hardware secure in the knowledge that it will work with our
Competition between distributors will grow in intensity. We saw
some hints of this in the sniping between Red Hat and Novell toward the end
of 2007; there will be more as these businesses increase their focus on the
bottom line. Ubuntu will also push harder, though, interestingly, it often
seems like that distributor's biggest perceived competitor is Fedora. Your
editor believes (and hopes) that cooperation at the development level will
remain strong despite increasing drama at the public relations level.
Along these lines, expect intensified competition from Sun, which will
continue to try to aggressively push Solaris into Linux shops while
simultaneously presenting a friendly face to the community. We may also
see more of the less-friendly side of the BSD community for similar
There will be a major technical Linux event in the United States -
the first in some years. The Linux
Plumbers Conference, planned for mid-September, will be unique in its
focus on the kernel and the software layers immediately surrounding it.
Getting the "greater kernel ecosystem" together in one place is an overdue
move which should help integration and development of the plumbing we all
Participation in the development community will grow. That, of
course, has been true every year for at least two decades. In 2008,
though, we can expect to see a stronger push to encourage developers from
parts of the world which traditionally have not contributed so strongly to
our community; Asia, in particular, should continue to increase its
presence. We will also continue to see companies in the embedded systems
area figure out that, if they do not participate in the development of the
code they use, others will have a much stronger influence on how that
Tolerance for anti-social behavior on mailing lists, IRC channels,
etc. will continue to drop as development communities try to attract and
provide a welcoming environment for more participants. Many communities
have formal codes of conduct now; others may well try to adopt them. But
even less-formal groups will increasingly understand that a harsh and
unfriendly environment hurts the project as a whole.
As usual, we'll come back to these predictions at the end of the year and
mock them without mercy. Until then, best wishes for a great 2008 from the
LWN editorial team!
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