Linux and Open Source: The 2005 Generation

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-01-03

Linux and Open Source: The 2005 Generation

Sometimes people dont know when a revolution has happened until afterwards. Then, the historians tell us that 2004 was the year that open source started to become computings mainstream.

Sounds hard to believe? Well, IDC analyst Al Gillen recently said that "Linux is no longer a fringe player. Linux is now mainstream." He made that observation because IDCs research predicts that Linuxs overall revenue for desktops, servers and packaged software running on Linux will exceed $35 billion by 2008.

Thats a lot of money, even by Bill Gates piggybank standards.

Most of that growth, today, is on servers. As Efrain Rovira, Hewlett-Packard Co.s worldwide director of Linux marketing, told me a few days back, customers are turning to blades for their server needs and "more than 50 percent are running Linux."

Its not just HP and Linux companies like Red Hat and Novell that are greeting Linux with open arms. IBM, Intel and Oracle have embraced Linux.

None of these companies are doing it because they get warm fuzzies from neo-hippie, socialist dreams of open software and free love, as some hyperventilating critics have claimed. Theyre doing it because Linux makes good, hard business sense.

Theres more happening here than Linux, though.

Take software development, for example. Open source produces better code. Period. End of statement.

Coverity, maker of software auditing tools, recently found that the Linux kernel has far fewer security vulnerabilities than a typical commercial software package. Im not surprised.

Im also not surprised that when developers have a choice of tools, they go for the open-source ones. Most Java developers now use open-source platforms and development tools. And most of the C and C++ programmers I know turn to the GNU tools when it comes time to really produce their programs.

These trends will just keep getting hotter and hotter in 2005.

I also think that the Linux desktop is going to continue to move into offices. I foresee that Linux thin-clients, powered by Novell Linux and Wyse, are going to do especially well in that niche.

You know, though, I dont see Linux becoming the dominant desktop anytime soon, despite the best efforts of companies like Novell, Red Hat and Xandros.

What I do see happening is that open-source desktop applications are going to be appearing on practically every Windows desktop in the next three years.

Next Page: Outlook should beware of OpenOffice, Thunderbird and Sunbird.

Linux and Open Source: The 2005 Generation - Page 2

Were already seeing this trend start with Firefoxs success. I think Thunderbird, the Mozilla e-mail client, is going to start making similar, albeit not as dramatic, in-roads on the Outlook Express market.

Thunderbird, however, since its a pure e-mail client, isnt going to knock Outlook off of corporate desktops anytime soon. But once Mozilla Sunbird, the open-source stand-alone calendaring and task management application, gets up to speed, I can see companies turning from Outlook to Thunderbird and Sunbird.

I even see Microsoft Office, perhaps the most bloated software suite ever, finally losing ground. Thats because Suns open-source 2.0 is looking very, very good.

Not only does it have excellent Office file format compatibility, its finally become a fast application. Ive used OpenOffice for ages, but Ive never warmed up to it. Its always been too darn slow. With this last pre-beta, though… woo! Look out Microsoft Office, OpenOffice means business.

And so does open source in 2005. No, you may not be running a Linux desktop at years end. But Im willing to bet that most of you will be running at least one open-source program on your desktop and that in the back-office youre going to be running open-source applications on Linux servers.

The revolution has arrived. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

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