Open Source

2018: The year of the open source desktop, browser, and office suite

Jack Wallen makes some fairly bold 2018 predictions for Linux and open source. What's in store for the desktop, mobile space, and software?

It was last year, around this same time, that I predicted a monumental year for open source in 2017. I even went so far as to say open source would finally pass the 5% market share on the desktop. There was a moment when it looked like that was actually going to happen, only to find out it was a bit of false reporting. Even without hitting that magic number, Linux and open source had a stellar year.

Will that success hold over to the upcoming year? I believe it will, and then some. Let's gaze into that always questionable crystal ball and see what kind of predictions we can come up with for Linux and open source.

SEE: Linux distribution comparison chart (Tech Pro Research)

The usual blah blah blah

Linux will continue to rule the cloud, continue to fuel the machine of big business, be the master of the container domain, and the usual blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to bother expanding on these for two reasons: I believe they are given and most pundits will focus on those points of major success for their predictions.

Instead, I want to turn the lens of my crystal onto ideas that might not make it into the mainstream-of-conscious-thought.

With that said, let's get bold.

The desktop

I'm going to stick with last year's prediction and say that 2018 will be the year Linux finally hits the 5% mark on market share. How can I say that, when I failed that prediction last year? In a word: Ubuntu. With Ubuntu ditching Unity and return to GNOME will go a long way to bring new users into the fold. Couple that with the rise of some seriously qualified desktop distributions (cough cough Elementary OS), as well as the rise of malware and vulnerabilities found in macOS, which pale in comparison to the vulnerabilities within Windows, and you have the makings for an easy Linux win.

That's not to say Linux is going to skyrocket into double digits. It'll be lucky to barely squeak into that vaunted 5% range, but it will. Barely.

SEE: 2017: The year Linux will reach 5% market share (TechRepublic)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that 2018 is also going to see the KDE desktop enjoy a significant spike in popularity. For years, KDE has been quietly improving and evolving (all in the shadow of GNOME, Mate, Pantheon, and Cinnamon), but "wallflower mode" is about to be switched off. KDE is already a beautiful, stable desktop—one that has been ready for prime time for a while. I'm not certain that will advance the KDE cause, but something will break and the "K" Desktop Environment will find its groove again.

One final desktop prediction. We've seen a few distribution-specific laptops on sale (see the Elementary OS LiteBook and the KDE Slimbook). I believe we'll see more distributions follow in those footsteps and find distributors to sell the likes of the MateBook, the ArchBook, the FedoraBrim, the openSUSE Chameleon, you get the idea. Although not every distribution will find its way into that market, I believe there is a future for many of the Linux flavors.

The mobile market

I was right when I predicted that 2017 would see Canonical exit the phone market. It was the right move, as Ubuntu Touch was a poorly designed platform, and Unity 8/Mir was a massive mistake in the evolution of Ubuntu's then default desktop.

Where does that leave Linux in the mobile market? There's only one option in the making and that's in the capable hands of Samsung and DeX. With DeX enabling true convergence for Linux (as well as Android), the open source platform might actually stand a chance at landing a very small niche in the mobile market.

However, I will make this one prediction. Although Samsung has a fantastic idea on their hands (with Linux On Galaxy), if Samsung cannot make any headway with Linux in the mobile market, the door will close on the idea of finally having a consumer-worthy Linux smartphone. The coming year will either bring celebration or the death knell, by way of Samsung.

The office suite

I believe one of two things will happen with regards to the office suite space: Either LibreOffice will finally release a version that can perfectly play with Microsoft Office (thereby crush the walls that prevent users from finally making the switch) or Kingsoft Office will release a version of WPS Office that people simply cannot resist. WPS Office already does a stellar job of working with Microsoft Office files—but its one big issue is a lack of awareness. People simply don't know about the option.

The thing is, both pieces of software are really good, so good in fact, regular users often wonder why more people haven't adopted. Truth be told, the reason for the lack of adoption is simple: interoperability with Microsoft Office. Yes, both can open and save as to the Microsoft Office default format, but when you collaborate with Office users, there are the inevitable problems in formatting and unsupported features. It is my belief that 2018 will finally see an end to that issue—on both fronts. LibreOffice and WPS Office will resolve the compatibility issues and both will enjoy newfound popularity.

The web browser

2017 marked the official and long-overdue comeback of the Firefox browser. Mozilla is far from done making noise. 2018 will mark the first time, in a very long time, that Firefox reclaims the title as most used browser. That's how good Firefox Quantum is. I think the desktop version of Firefox is going to get a serious boost when the mobile edition of the Quantum browser finally releases for Android. The speed and lack of bloat will go a very long way to bring users back into the fold, as well as attract new users.

The future looks bright

The coming year looks very bright and shiny for Linux and open source. I can't say for certain that all of my predictions will come true, but I wouldn't be surprised if most did.

What do you think? What's in store for Linux and open source for 2018?

Also see

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Image: Jack Wallen

About Jack Wallen

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.

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