Ah, the sweet smell of a new year. Although I have to admit, 2011 wasn't the best of years for Linux and open source, it certainly wasn't the worst. But what 2011 did do was build a nice solid base for things to come. And I believe 2012 will be a vastly improved year for our favorite software and platform.
I won't go as far to say that 2012 will finally be the year of the desktop for Linux -- I think that flag has flown enough over the last decade (and to no avail). But, the good news is that the desktop landscape is about to see some serious changes as the multi-touch form factor starts to take a larger role. But more on that later. So, what is possible (besides 'anything') for the up-coming year? Here are my prognostications.
Ubuntu Unity finally gets some respect
I've made my distaste for Unity well known. I'm not at all against change -- in fact, I invite the beast into my home and heart. But the change Ubuntu made with Unity wasn't a step forward (at least not like the change brought about by GNOME 3). But 2012 should see a major upswing with this desktop. How? Why? Simple: Tablets. I believe Canonical has another trick up their sleeve and we will finally see that Linux tablet arrive on the market, sporting Ubuntu and Unity. When this happens, we will finally see the "why" of Unity.
The main reason Canonical made this change was so that they could support Ubuntu on all devices -- that had to include tablets. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would have seen the rise of tablet hardware coming when Ubuntu 11.04 (2011) was being released. Mark Shuttleworth couldn't have been immune to the future of tech when he made the decision to go with Unity. That future had to include tablets.
Granted, Shuttleworth has said the plan was to have Ubuntu and Unity ready for tablets in two years; I believe a surprise will come about this year and the first of the Linux tablets will appear.
Minty fresh future
Linux Mint will continue its rise to the top of the Linux desktop distributions. Actually, it won't continue it's rise, it will completely take over the top spot as the number one Linux desktop distribution -- and this won't just be on Distrowatch. 2012 will see Linux Mint win over the hearts and minds of users, media, business, and anyone else looking for a solid Linux desktop. With it's unique additions to GNOME 3 and solid foundation, it's already doing everything other distributions have tried to do but failed.
A new player in the enterprise
I feel strongly that a new enterprise-ready Linux platform will appear, seemingly out of nowhere. At the moment, the only real player in the market is Red Hat Enterprise Linux (SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop has pretty much failed). That's going to change. 2011 was a banner year for server sales and someone is going to come out to play on that playground. It would not surprise me if we see a company basing a server on the Ubuntu Server platform, only with a hardened security and an added GUI.
GnuCash gets a server side
I know it might not seem so, but this will be HUGE. As a certified QuickBooks engineer, I would welcome this. Why? On a daily basis, I see clients who cannot afford to keep QuickBooks running or update to the latest issue (I saw a client with QuickBooks 5 recently). The GnuCash developers know how much of a deal maker it would be if they came out with a client/server setup and I believe 2012 might finally see the first alpha release of this. When this happens, you can bet I will be hopping right on that bandwagon and pimping it everywhere I can.
SLED will fade away
SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop will, sadly enough, fade out of existence. This writing has been on the wall ever since SuSE was taken over by the anti-Midas touch of Novell. But never fear, openSUSE will continue on and, as I mentioned earlier, another player will arise in the Enterprise market. Hopefully this will be a lesson for any other Linux or open source developer team -- do not allow a company with a poor track record to take you over!
An end to the law suits
Finally. Yes, finally... we will see an end to the law suits that have plagued and confused the media, the end users, and the companies over the last five years. The witch hunts are over. We can breathe easily as no more bloodthirsty lawyers will be blindly chasing ambulances through the open source community.
Strong server sales
2012 will follow in the footsteps of 2011 Q2 with big spikes in server sales. 2011 Q2 saw Linux server sales outshine those of Windows servers, 2012 will repeat this, only the outshining will not be limited to a single quarter. I predict half of the year will see Linux server sales outdo Windows server sales.
Okay, so the dangerously bold predictions of the base (world domination, year of the desktop) are gone, to be replaced by more sane predications that are actually possible. What do you think? Are my predictions off? If so, how and why? What are your predictions for Linux and open source in the coming year?
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 getjackd.net.