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Linux predictions for 2001

What's in store for Linux this year? Look no further than Joe Barr's crystal ball

Happy New Year, everyone! I feel a little silly typing that greeting this morning, since it's still a couple of weeks before January, but not as silly as I do about writing the rest of the column. It must be a disease of some kind, or a rite of passage for journalists. What else could explain the strange notion that we must, in the last few harried weeks of the year, put on our turbans, hold an envelope over our third eye like Johnny Carson, and make predictions?

So why am I doing it? I wish I could blame my editors, but they have too much sense to suggest such a column. The best justification I can come up with is: "Hey, everyone else is doing it, so why not?" I know for a fact that some of my predictions are the result of vivid dreams I had recently after eating a late snack containing some particularly potent habanero peppers. So please don't take my predictions too seriously; I certainly don't. With that disclaimer out of the way, here it is: my first -- and very possibly my last -- attempt to forecast Linux fortunes in the year ahead.

  1. It's too easy to just say that kernel version 2.4 will officially be released in 2001, so I'll go beyond that. I'll predict that it kicks Windows 2000's butt in benchmarks on multiprocessor and multiple-NIC machines. And, of course, it will do the same on uniprocessor systems with only a single network interface card as well.
  2. Given the result of the presidential election, I predict that the Microsoft appeal of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's rulings will result in his findings of law being overturned, but his findings of fact will stand. The breakup of Microsoft will be abandoned on appeal, and the lower court will be ordered to come up with new, less drastic remedies. Under the Bush administration, the DOJ will lose its zeal for pursuing the case to a just conclusion, and no substantial or effective remedies will ever be implemented. But that outcome will in no way impede Linux's growing popularity. It's simply too late to save the dynasty now, regardless of what King George might want to do for King Bill.
  3. 2001 will be a year of consolidation within the Linux industry. Not only will the number of distributions shrink through attrition and merger, but the number of hardware and service firms will be reduced as well. The biggest wedding will be between Red Hat and VA Linux, as the two seek to become the IBM of Linux: a single source for hardware, software, and support. Not to be outdone, SuSE and Atipa will follow suit to keep pace with their fedora-wearing rivals. The two entities formed by those megamergers will duke it out to become the Linux superstar around the globe.
  4. KDE and GNOME will not merge, but both will continue to improve their already fine platforms. Further, neither one will become the default desktop environment for Linux. Choice will remain the default for the Linux desktop, and many will find happiness in a lightweight environment.
  5. Linus Torvalds will step back from active participation in the kernel-hacking sphere and pass the baton to Alan Cox. Linus will not disappear; he will just move into the role of community leader. Kernel development will slow at first, but new testing methodologies and kernel debuggers will decrease the elapsed time from first code to final release. Linus will remain the most loved person in the Linux movement.
  6. One or more of the top five PC makers will begin offering Linux desktop machines for sale in retail outlets, perhaps in a dual-boot configuration. This will not occur until PC makers feel safe from retaliation by Microsoft, but when it does happen, it won't be long until others follow that lead and the last bastion of the unregulated monopoly begins to fade away.
  7. Governmental adoption of Linux around the globe and at all levels of government will increase. As it does, Linux will find a backdoor to the desktop world dominated by Microsoft. The BSA's campaign of terror (see Resources for a link) will backfire, and, instead of serving to boost Microsoft's sagging revenues, it will simply increase the pace of migration away from the monopoly. By the end of the year, we'll all laugh about the old days when Linux was considered only a server platform.
  8. Bruce Perens will really shake some things up at Hewlett-Packard. Asking Bruce to do something is kind of like asking Ross Perot to do something: don't ask either unless you really want it done. Texas asked Perot for help with public education a few years ago, and he immediately attacked the core of the problem: too much spending on high school football and too little on teachers and books. Thus was born the "no pass/no play" rule, which put a burr under the saddle of many a high school coach -- not to mention millions of fans and the families of players. The real question here is whether Bruce and HP will still be together at the end of the year. If they are, it'll be a banner year for Linux at HP, as Perens described his role there to me as "challenging HP management" to support open source software and participate in its development. Fifty-fifty on him surviving the year. Ditto on HP.
  9. Linux stocks will thrive. They've crashed to nearly nothing after their wild IPO launches, but as the technology sector of the economy rebounds from the bottom, and as weaker firms fold or merge with stronger ones, Linux stocks as a group will do well in 2001. They will regain some but not all of their IPO values, and Red Hat will lead the way with its first post-IPO profits.
  10. Regardless of the accuracy of the previous nine predictions, my last one is simply this: it's going to be another great year for Linux.

Best wishes to you and yours!

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

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