Open Source in 2010

"Free and Open Source Software" (FOSS) is behind the Internet revolution. Without FOSS, if it existed at all, the Internet would be very different and much smaller. It started with the protocols and basic applications but FOSS is no longer niche or the domain of geeks. Apache serves up most of the worlds web sites. MySQL provides the database to power many of the worlds websites and increasingly Firefox is being used by everyone to browse web sites.

And then there is Linux.

Linux dominates the web server operating system world and would probably dominate the desktop world too if it weren't for the fact that its free and therefore has no marketing behind it. Its a shame there are no "Open marketing" enthusiasts prepared to commit resources to it.

Large companies such as Google and even Microsoft are in the FOSS arena with projects such as Chrome or the .NET Micro Framework.

I depend on FOSS. As a developer and consultant, FOSS applications such as Joomla and PHP give me the platforms I need to deliver substantial applications that would have taken large teams many months or even years to produce just a few years ago.

The greatest growth area for FOSS in the next year or two will be the increased use of Linux on desktop systems. While Windows 7 does a pretty good job, it continues the Microsoft Operating Systems legacy of needing ever more powerful hardware and suffering a high vulnerability to virus attack. People who buy Windows 7 find that they soon have to buy copies of anti-virus software, Office packages and the like as their free trial versions expire. The Marketing experts at Microsoft can only do so much to address this, especially when Linux suffers from none of these problems.

Linux desktops offer a great deal. Neatly packaged systems such as Ubuntu provide:

  • OpenOffice - a complete compatible replacement for the Microsoft Office suite,
  • Gimp - a significant competitor for Photoshop for image handling, and
  • Evolution - a mail client replacement for Microsoft Outlook.

The Ubuntu Desktop installs as easily as Windows. Ubuntu is completely free and is supported by an exellent online forum and chat based support. Full (phone and ticket based) support can be purchased for $250 per year.

The Linux desktop systems are missing some key applications such as Adobe products, Accounting packages, Mainstream games and the like. The increase in web applications is reducing the significance of this problem and companies like Adobe have already begun supplying Linux versions of their products.

Increase in the take up of Linux Desktops will lead to more applications for Linux. Unfortunately nobody knows how many Linux desktop users there are. A reasonable estimate based on the counter data on the web would suggest around 20 million desktops so its likely that it is already worth most companies producing builds of their software for the main Linux environments.

Perhaps 2010 will be the year that Linux really takes off. I certainly hope so because we'll all be better off as a result.


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