Linux everywhere

2010 was the year in which Linux took over. Not that many people will have noticed.

January 4, 2011
Linux everywhere

As far as media coverage goes, 2010 doesn’t appear to have been the best year for Linux. In years gone by it was common to see headlines proclaiming this or that government to be moving to Linux, or this or that company switching to free software. Not so in 2010, where tech media was dominated by tablet PCs, web applications and mobile phones.

This doesn’t mean that Linux has fallen by the wayside, however. Far from it. Linux had a fantastic year in 2010, popping up at all the right places and sneaking into every event.

Take Android. Without a doubt, Google’s mobile phone operating system was among the biggest news stories of the year. It went from next to nothing a couple of years ago to 25% market share – second after Symbian – by the end of the third quarter of 2010. And it’s based on a modified Linux kernel that runs Java applications.

Take Chrome OS, Google’s long-anticipated netbook operating system. It too is built on Linux and aimed at the future web application market.

It’s not only Google that’s big into Linux. There’s Meego, another mobile operating system jointly created by Intel and Nokia. Although not yet in widespread use, Meego looks likely to claim a place in the set-top box, in-car entertainment and lightweight netbook market.

Then there is the Linaro project, a mobile phone-focused project that was formed by a number of major players this year. The idea behind Linaro is to speed up and improve the development of Linux for mobile devices. One of the major participants in the project are the makers of the ARM processing platform. ARM processors have been used mostly in mobile phones to date, but are quickly finding a place in tablet PCs and netbooks. With sponsors such as IBM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson and a team of engineers that already numbers 70, Linaro’s mobile Linux efforts are going to have a real impact in the very near future.

Sure, Ubuntu Linux got a lot of attention in 2010. So much so that 2010 could well be named Ubuntu’s year. But the real news about Linux wasn’t in bold headlines but was in the slow and steady progress the open source operating system was making in the world of business. While five years ago it was unusual to find a company proclaiming Linux as their future, in 2010 most companies are using open source, even if they aren’t talking about it. Five years ago Gartner said Linux was five years away from “mainstream.” It’s safe to say that Linux is now pretty much mainstream.

Linux is also a big part of the next generation of tools: web applications. Without a doubt there are a few brave souls forging their web application strategy with proprietary tools, but the majority are using tools such as Hadoop and Lucene, hosting their web applications on Linux and serving them from open source clouds and displaying them on open source-running mobile phones. With cloud computing destined to be huge in 2011, open source is going to be an important part of that.

So, while most observers have been waiting for open source to become the desktop operating system of choice, open source has quietly been setting itself up behind the scenes and rapidly becoming a key part of any and every business.

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