Your editor, not generally known for his good sense, has long made a tradition
of putting together a set of Linux-related predictions at the beginning of each
year and posting them for the world to see. There is no particular source
of inside knowledge behind these
predictions, and no real reason to give them more credence than is merited
by much of the material found in one's spam folder. Still, it's a fun
exercise in pondering how things could go and trying to guess what the
important themes will be.
On that note, here's your editor's thoughts for 2010. Any relation to
reality is purely coincidental.
Open hardware platforms will be seen as increasingly important by the
general public. Anybody who saw Verizon's heavy advertising campaign
for its Android-based "Droid" offering will have understood that openness
is now seen as a selling point in the mobile phone market - something which
was not true even a year or two ago. Apple has done us a favor by showing
how painful a restricted platform can be - even if it is a relatively open
one. Future offerings, including the much-hyped "tablet" machines, will be
judged by many criteria, one of which will be "who decides which
applications I can run on it?" Locked-down systems will suffer as a result
of their closed nature.
We'll see a number of Linux-based tablet computers offered to the
market this year. What may take a bit longer to see is just what all of
these machines will really be good for.
Software patents will strike close to home again. Nokia's suit
against Apple is an especially ominous development. We are seeing the
opening of a whole new computing market where none of the traditionally
dominating companies have a commanding share. So it's a bit of a gold
rush, and some companies will undoubtedly rush to gain their gold by way of
Copyright assignment policies will be debated by numerous projects
over the course of the year. In the past year, the (attempted,
in-progress) acquisition of MySQL (by way of Sun) by Oracle has clearly shown how
assignment of copyrights to a corporation can go wrong, and Canonical's
imposition of an assignment policy has created a backlash of its own.
Even Eben Moglen, who has argued for copyright
assignments in the past, has stated publicly that MySQL would be better
off with a more diverse ownership structure. Developers in the future will
think harder about signing assignment agreements, and projects will wonder
whether their interests are truly best served by imposing assignment
agreements. Copyright assignment agreements will not go away, but, like
heavy-handed trademark policies, they will come to be seen an an impediment
to freedom which is often counterproductive.
Speaking of MySQL, Oracle's acquisition of Sun will proceed without
the imposition of major changes by the European Union.
Regardless of its long-term plans, Oracle will treat MySQL with a light
hand in the coming year. There will almost certainly be attempts to fork
the project, though, regardless of how Oracle behaves.
The browser war will heat up again, but the main contestants will be
free software. Firefox holds a commanding position, but its heavy weight
and long startup time are enough to push some users to the competition -
which, increasingly, looks to be Google's Chrome. If Google continues to
develop the browser, and continues
to avoid fatal errors like disallowing ad blocking extensions, Chrome
may hold a significant part of the market by the end of the year.
Solid-state storage devices will come into wider use this year, with
some interesting results. For example, the above-mentioned long startup
time for Firefox tends to just vanish when the browser is SSD-based. Wider
use of SSDs will tend to hide lazy or inefficient application development,
but it will also put more pressure on the kernel's block subsystem, which
will struggle to keep up with rapidly-increasing operation rates.
Adventurous distributors will be offering Btrfs by the end of the
year. The filesystem will be feature-complete and stabilizing, but it will
still be very much for adventurous (and well backed up) users at that
point. Ext4, instead, will be moving beyond community distributions and
into "enterprise" production use.
The big kernel lock will be gone from the mainline kernel.
Actually, it will probably remain in a number of places, but things will
have reached a point where a lock_kernel() call is an indication
of old, unmaintained, and unused code. On any reasonably current hardware,
a leading-edge kernel will be able to run with no BKL use at all. This
work will be part of the larger job of getting the realtime preemption
patch set into the mainline, but your editor dares not attempt another
prediction on when that task will be complete.
Production use of LLVM will be on the rise as this compiler matures
and stabilizes. Some of the most interesting uses are likely to be in
nontraditional projects like Unladen Swallow.
There will be a scary security incident involving mobile Linux
devices. Our security is pretty good, but it's far from perfect; just
think, for example, about the number of bugs likely to be found in wireless
network drivers, which are quite complex and reviewed by relatively few
Speaking of security, 2010 will be the year of the sandbox.
Technologies like SELinux, AppArmor, and TOMOYO will not be going away, but
increasing numbers of people will decide that many security objectives are
more easily obtained by just placing at-risk processes into their own box.
There will be lots of talk of clouds, with companies stumbling over
each other to become the host for some portion of our lives. Your editor
can only hope that, at some point, this rush toward highly centralized
services will be countered by a push for personal control of data. Perhaps
members of our community will make it easy for nontechnical users to set up
"cloudlets" for individual or small-group use, with a focus on individual
control and portability.
GNOME 3 will be released. Learning from the KDE 4 experience, the
GNOME developers will promote their work less and focus more on not
breaking things for users. The result will be a launch which draws
relatively little attention, of either the good or the bad variety, but
which lays the base for the platform's future development.
Developers will start using Python 3 as that language becomes more
widely available in community distributions. By the end of the year, a
small number of Python 3 programs will be in reasonably wide use.
Meanwhile, we'll still be waiting for Perl 6.
Community distributions will grow in commercial importance over the
course of the year. Distributions like Debian and Gentoo already show up
in surprising places, with prominent organizations choosing them for their
combination of stability, broad software selection, and great support.
More companies will begin to realize that the "enterprise distribution"
model is not perfect for all situations and will go looking for solutions
which bring them closer to the communities which create all of that
software in the first place.
Linux and free software will be stronger than ever at the end of
the year. Yes, your editor makes this prediction every year, but it has
proved rather more reliable than most of the others. It makes sense to go
with a known winner, and, in any case, this prediction is easy to justify.
The software keeps getting better, the community gets larger, and the value
of free software is becoming more widely understood. There doesn't seem to
be any reason for any of that to change anytime soon.
to post comments)