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March of the penguin

Will Linux finally achieve “world domination” this year?

JAXentereditorialteam
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Linux proponent predicts “banner year” for open source operating system – here’s our two cents.

There have been some heady predictions for 2014 tumbling around the internet this week – many of them focused on open source. Over at TechRepublic, they reckon the coming year promises to be a banner one for Linux (hm, where have we heard that before?).

It’s been over twenty years since the little penguin waddled its way into the big leagues, and over the decades, has conquered servers and (on the back of Android) smartphones alike. Yet there’s one platform that Linux still has yet to conquer, despite years of trying: the almighty desktop.

Once this ‘final frontier’ is crossed, something sysadmin and author Carla Schroder reckons will happen at last in 2014, it’ll finally have achieved world domination.

On top of this, Schroder writes that she also expects “exponential growth in every arena”, and, on top of winning the desktop war, makes several further “bold” (as she admits herself) claims. The first being that the Linux kernel will continue to dominate for years to come. Second, after years of hyperbolic speculation, via the Trojan horse of the cute, consumer friendly Android variant, Linux will finally topple the domination of “porous lardy Microsoft Windows” on the retail computer market.

Schroder isn’t the only one talking up the impending Linux colonization of the desktop. Over on Techrepublic, Jack Wallen predicts that the open source OS’s market share on desktop – by which he means only traditional keyboard-and-mouse devices – will “break double digits”. A rather significant jump, considering that in 2013, Linux share in this field was a meagre five percent.

Dizzying growth is known to exist within the tech industry (look at the crazy sales of Apple’s mobile devices), but for Linux this seems less than likely. Wallen lists a couple of reasons: that the end of official support for Windows XP will result in enterprises exploring cheaper upgrade options, and that the rise of pre-loaded Linux from mainstream OEMs like Dell and HP.

But let’s be honest: if it’s taken companies this long to upgrade, what are the odds they’ll be bothered by Microsoft’s new patches? As for pre-loaded devices, don’t expect them to front a global marketing campaign anytime soon. Dell’s XPS laptop with Linux, for example, is branded “Developer Edition”, and it’s difficult to miss the “Dell recommends Windows” message in the corner of the page. Ironically, the incredibly restrictive Chrome OS will probably become the most popular desktop OS built on the Linux kernel.

Android’s dominance, too, is something of a hollow victory for Linux. Even if it does result in a shift away from Windows, Android’s development takes place in secret, and its core apps are being replaced with Google’s proprietary updates. At least CyanogenMod provides a truly open distribution, even if it’s yet to blip on to the radar of the majority of Android users.

If there’s one thing we agree with Schroder on, it’s that Linux has locked down cloud hosting (and the server market in general). Anything more than that, however, is either a positive spin on proprietary distributions or wishful thinking.

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