It's that time again, ladies and gentlemen: Time for the predictions to start rolling down the pike. With open source, prognostications tend to run toward things like "world domination" and "the year of the desktop." Most predictions fall flat. But that doesn't stop us from diving headfirst into the murky waters of the future. And sometimes, a gem will appear that actually nails it.
So with that in mind, I wanted to hop into my Linux-powered TARDIS and offer my own predictions for 2013 and open source. You might find some repeat offenders from previous years. You might even find some entries here that knock you for a loop. Are you ready for the future?
1: Finally breaking double-digits in market share
Linux is already at 9% market share in the enterprise market. 2013 will be the first year that the open source platform reaches double digits. Though Linux has had a much easier in-road at the enterprise level (they actually get it), Linux has typically struggled with the small to midsize market. 2013 will also be the year Linux finally breaks the double-digit barrier for the SMBs, in part because of growing discontent with Windows 8 and the rising cost of Microsoft products.
2: Ubuntu taking over as default desktop platform for a major company
It's already happened within one of the largest companies in the world (Google) and will happen again. This time around, the company won't be as tech-savvy or tech-centric as Google, so the win will be all the more profound. Which company this is remains to be seen — but I believe it will be based in the United States and will begin a major shift in the way the business world perceives Linux.
3: Linux gaining major ground as a gaming platform
Thanks to Valve porting Steam to Linux, there will be a major influx of games coming to the platform. Because of the reliability of the kernel and OS, both users and console designers will begin to migrate to the platform. Once this ball gets seriously rolling, the effects will begin to trickle up to the desktop and affect market share of the Linux desktop.
4: Ubuntu on smartphones
Mark Shuttleworth has been pitching this for a while, and I believe 2013 will be the year it happens. There is already a company, NexCrea, that is working on an ingenious set of devices (laptop and tablet) powered by a single Ubuntu-powered smartphone. Granted, this is just an idea at the moment — the company is still looking for funds. But Ubuntu on Android is indeed happening, and 2013 should see this project come to complete fruition.
5: Demise of a major distribution
This is one of those predictions I hate to offer, but I believe one of the "major" distributions will have its financial backing cut and will either be forked or will die. My guess as to which distribution will go the way of Corel Linux is that it will be Mandriva Linux. This distribution has been on the outs for a while now, and with the fork, Mageia, gaining momentum, Mandriva will finally close up shop this coming year. The good news? The loss of Mandriva will mean next to nothing to the overall landscape of Linux and open source.
6: Fedora switching to a rolling release
This has been a hot topic within the Fedora community. Because Fedora can't seem to meet release deadlines, it continues to falter in popularity. This will cause the developers to finally realize they must keep up with distributions that manage to smoothly release on time. The only way for this to happen with such a bleeding edge distribution is to adopt a rolling release. This will not only keep Fedora on time, it will keep users with the most up-to-date software all the time.
7: First Linux-specific tablet releasing
Mark Shuttleworth made a brilliant move when he adopted Unity. This interface was designed for everything from servers to tablets. If Canonical plans to get an Ubuntu tablet to the market, 2013 will have to be the year we see product on shelves or the idea might as well be scrapped. The tablet market is already dominated by two major players that will only continue to gain momentum. For a Linux tablet to succeed, it must be released early in 2013 and must hit the ground running.
8: Linux revenues reaching two billion
That sounds like an exorbitant number for open source software. The truth is, Linux can (and does) make money. In 2013, open source-related sales will break the two billion dollar mark — and do so easily. With Linux revenue expected to exceed $1.2 billion, the rest of the open source world will pick up the slack and push the number over the big 2. Once this happens, no one will be able to deny that Linux and open source have arrived.
9: Firefox OS releasing
The mobile platform few have heard about will release in 2013. This is Mozilla's HTML5 take on the mobile device OS and intends to adhere to strict open Web standards. This project is based on Mozilla's Boot To Gecko and will create an environment where every application on the device is HTML5 and won't be hampered by middleware layers forced upon customers by providers. If this project delivers as promised, it could make a LOT of mobile customers very happy.
10: TCO going away
For the longest time, detractors cried out "TCO" to help invalidate any progress Linux has enjoyed. The idea that Linux is "too hard" for the average user quickly negates the lack of up-front software cost. As of 2013, that idea dies. Why? Because the Linux desktop has become as easy to use as any other platform. No matter their skill level, users can sit down in front of a Linux desktop and be up and running quickly. This coming year will finally (thankfully) see the end of the TCO FUD tossed around by the naysayers.
Those are my predictions for open source in the year 2013. Bold? Maybe. Accurate? Who knows. It won't be until this same time next year that we'll be able to look back on these words and say I was "dead wrong" or "spot on." What do you think? Do any of my predictions hold water? Or do you have your own predictions for open source in 2013?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.