the predictions made at
the beginning of the year
It is that time of year again: your editor, having, as usual, delayed
engaging with that whole "holiday shopping" thing until the last minute,
can be counted on to be rather more grumpy than usual. Clearly what is
needed is some comic relief, and there are few things more comic than a
critical look back at
. As usual, some of those predictions worked
out, while others proved to be badly wrong indeed; still others should have
been made but were not.
Things got off to a reasonably good start (prediction wise) with the
assertion that the LibreOffice project would take off, while OpenOffice
would languish. LibreOffice has, indeed, been successful in attracting
developers, building enthusiasm, and getting the releases out; the
project's fund-raising drive early in the year was highly successful.
Distributors are picking it up almost universally; it is clearly a project
that will be around for the long haul.
What your editor didn't foresee was that Oracle would simply give up on
OpenOffice.org and cast it off to "the community." The new project has
struggled to come to terms with "the Apache way," review the licensing of
all the code (eliminating non-Apache-compatible code along the way), figure
out its mailing lists and web sites, and set up a
working governance model. There have been no OpenOffice.org releases since
3.3.0 came out in January, 2011. This project hopes to start making
releases again in early 2012; how many people will care remains to be seen.
The thought that Mageia and IllumOS would do less well than they would have
liked seems to have been
mostly correct. Mageia did manage to get a release out, and it does have a
dedicated core of developers, but things are moving slowly and adoption
appears to be small. The Mageia developers continue their work, though,
and a second release is in
alpha test as of this writing. Meanwhile, traffic on the IllumOS lists has
dwindled. IllumOS has developed some commercial life in the form of
SmartOS, which includes a port of the KVM
virtualization subsystem - your editor did not see that one coming.
There is no real way to tell how well SmartOS is doing at this point.
The predictions confidently claimed that MeeGo would be a surprisingly big
success in 2011, which would meanwhile be an iffy year for WebOS. The
WebOS prediction was just about
right, clearly showing that your editor's crystal ball is still in good
working order; there's no need to talk about that other prediction at all.
indeed a "make or break" year for WebOS, with a heavy emphasis on the
"break" part, though the decision to open-source it may yet give WebOS
another life. So let's just
think about WebOS and pay no attention to that MeeGo behind the curtain...
Oh, OK, might as well rub it in. Perhaps it's true that your editor is
dense enough to have been the only one to not see the "Elopcalypse" coming;
once Nokia decided to go with Microsoft, any possibility of MeeGo
continuing as a shared project came to an end. In truth, the seeds of
MeeGo's demise may have been sown long before; Intel and Nokia seemed to
have widely differing views on where that project should go. It is a
shame; your editor still believes that MeeGo was a project with the
potential to do great things. But that story appears to be at an end;
"Tizen" may yet surprise us, but it would be a big surprise indeed.
Did Google become a "major kernel contributor" as predicted in January?
Since the release of 2.6.37 on January 4, Google has contributed 789
changes to the kernel - 1.6% of the total. That makes it the 13th biggest
contributor of changes, ahead of companies like AMD, Microsoft and Oracle,
but behind Nokia and Samsung. The numbers for 2010 (technically,
2.6.32-2.6.37, so just over one year) were 489 changes, 1.0% of the total.
So Google has indeed increased its contributions, but your editor would
like to believe that there is a lot more to come.
ChromeOS was predicted to struggle in 2011. Some "Chromebooks" have found
their way to the market, but ChromeOS has not, yet, taken the computing
world by storm.
Your editor predicted huge legal battles - a fairly easy prediction to
make. Even so, your editor cannot claim to have foreseen just how bad the
mobile patent wars would get. The thought that we might see a Stuxnet-like
attack against Linux systems hasn't become reality - that we know about,
anyway - even though the Linux community did endure some severe
security-related problems this year. Alas, the hopeful thought that we
would see a free driver for an embedded graphics chipset proved to be too
hopeful; the slowly-improving gma500 driver in the staging tree doesn't
What about the prediction that the tension between providing stable code
and providing leading-edge code would increase? That one is hard to
judge. The big fights within Fedora that inspired that prediction would
appear to have simmered down without slowing Fedora's tendency to ship very
new stuff. If one reinterprets the prediction as applying to the tension
between "the way we've always done it" and new subsystems embodying new
ideas, then the prediction certainly held true in 2011. Yes, that must
certainly have been what your editor was trying to say.
January's predictions finished out with a couple of ideas, the first being
that openSUSE would adopt
ultra-stable and leading-edge variants. On the stable side, the
"Evergreen" project seems to be getting off to a slow start. The rolling
"Tumbleweed" distribution, instead, has been active for some time and seems
to have a small core of users. The final prediction was that business
models depending on control over the code - things like "open core" and
those based on copyright assignments - would fade away. It's not really
clear that this has happened, but one can at least say that copyright
assignment policies do not have the best reputation at the moment.
So what did the January predictions miss entirely? One obvious candidate
is the GNOME 3.0 release and the firestorm of criticism that followed it.
At the end of the year, it would appear that the worst of that storm has
passed; the 3.2 release has earned a better reception than its
predecessor. Hopefully the GNOME project will be able to continue to woo
back the users it has lost while gaining the large numbers of new users
they hope for.
Predicting continued success for Android would have been an easy home run.
Even so, it would have been hard to imagine a world where
Android devices are activated every day. Given the sheer size of
this success, it is not surprising that the lawyers are circling around
Your editor predicted the demise of the big kernel lock in 2010 - just a
bit ahead of his time, as usual. That prediction was not repeated this
year, which was a mistake: the actual demise of the BKL came with
2.6.39 in 2011 - not a moment too soon.
All told, it was a year with a lot of big ups and downs. Some things went
poorly, to the point that some commentators have written the whole year off
as a bad one. But one need not look too hard to realize that the free
software community got a lot done in 2011, that it is as strong and vibrant
as ever, and that we are poised to push even further in 2012. Legal
hassles, failing projects, and clueless companies are nothing new. We have
dealt with them before; there will be more of them to deal with in the
future. None of these challenges have really slowed us down thus far;
there is every reason to believe we will be equally successful in the
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