Crystal ball? Are you there? Fine. I’ll go it alone.

2018 was a rollicking fun year for open source, filled with highs, lows, and plenty of in-between. But what will 2019 hold for Linux and open source software? Let’s shrug off the continued introductory dialog and prognosticate.

SEE: Side-by-side chart of popular Linux distros (Tech Pro Research)

Purchase power

If 2018 proved one thing, it’s that open source holds significant value to enterprise businesses. So much so, that we saw one of the largest purchases of an open source company to date (IBM buys Red Hat: 5 things IT leaders need to know). I believe that trend will spill into 2019, and even more open source acquisitions will occur. Maybe it’ll be SUSE, Apache, Ubuntu (via Canonical), Docker, or another enterprise-class open source project.

But count on this, the appeal of purchasing open source projects by enterprise-level businesses will continue to grow. The power open source holds over larger companies will become ever-more apparent, as the prices for such purchases will continue to skyrocket.

If I had to guess which open source company will be purchased, I’d put my money on SUSE. Not only does it have serious IT cred, but it’s also a significant player in big data.

Policies lead to diversity

2018 also saw the rise of the open source Code of Conduct. Unfortunately, that very positive step forward was met with some resistance. I think it’s safe to say we will start seeing even more policies and procedures pop up within various open source development communities.

With the Linux kernel group leading the charge, seriously positive steps forward will be taken, which will lead to one very significant change in the open source landscape–diversity. This is long overdue, but I predict 2019 will see a massive rise in women playing a major role in open source development.

Not only will open source development benefit from this diversity but leadership as well. Look to see more women stepping in to direct larger projects within the open source community. And to anyone who is against this, 1990 called and would like their opinions back.

Microsoft patents

We’ve already witnessed 60,000 of Microsoft’s patents laid open for all to see. I spoke with Microsoft about the 30,000 pending patents and was assured that, as they are issued, they will be included in the OIN license. Although 2019 won’t see all 30 thousand of those pending patents issued and immediately added to the OIN (because red tape makes for a very slow process), we will see a significant increase in the usage of the current 60,000 patents available to the open source community. Having all of these patents open is a significant move on Microsoft’s part to building the bridge between the company and open source. This will also serve (near the end of the year) to kick off a shift towards unity between Windows and Linux. Will this herald the beginning of Microsoft Linux? Probably not. However, that pipe dream looks more and more like it could (someday) become a reality.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to working smarter with Linux (Tech Pro Research)

Blockchain Linux

I’m not really going out on much of a limb here, but I believe 2019 will see the release of a blockchain-specific Linux distribution. This distribution will contain all of the necessary bits for businesses to spin up a blockchain ready server, without going through the hassle of installing the likes of Etherium, Hyperledger Fabric, etc. on a Linux server distribution. This distribution will be based on Ubuntu Server and will become an instant hit with enterprise businesses looking to cash in on blockchain technologies. Besides, who wouldn’t want a turnkey blockchain solution?

Linux everywhere

If you thought Linux was prevalent by the end of 2018–just you wait. By the end of 2019, Linux will be found on nearly every aspect of technology, from end-to-end. How can I say this without claiming it will finally be the “Year of the Linux desktop?” Well, I’m not sure I can. But I’m not foolish enough to make that claim one more year running. Even so, Linux will find its way to the desktop of considerably more users this coming year. How? It’ll begin with a purchase (see above). A major enterprise player will drop serious coin for the likes of Ubuntu and, with the help of a closed-door deal here and there, will begin production of consumer-grade Linux desktops and laptops that will stand as competition to the Chromebook. Of course, for this to happen the right company has to buy the right Linux distribution as well as a hardware manufacturer. So yes, the possibility is slim, but I had to include this in the list, otherwise, I couldn’t claim that 2019 will finally be the year of the Linux desktop.

There. I said it. Happy?

Desktop dominance

Speaking of which … as to the Linux desktop, I have one prediction that might surprise everyone. The KDE developers will release a version of their Plasma Desktop that is so jaw-droppingly amazing, users will clamor to make the switch from whatever desktop of choice they currently use. What will comprise that release? I have no idea. However, KDE Plasma has been slowly improving in the shadows, and it’s about time the spotlight shines on this Linux desktop.

SEE: Open source vs. proprietary software: A look at the pros and cons (Tech Pro Research)

Linux drives AI

AI is everywhere. So much so, we could be drawing dangerously (or excitingly, depending on your take) near the singularity. In the coming year, it will become sparklingly clear that Linux is the driving force behind AI. This is made possible by Linux being the most important player in the big data game. Without big data, AI doesn’t grow. Also, Android is fueled by the Linux kernel. Because Android will be the single biggest player in AI, that direct relationship will help make Linux an irrevocable piece in the puzzle.

Linux 5.0 kernel

Linus Torvalds claimed the world wasn’t ready for the 5.0 kernel in 2018. Soon it’ll be 2019, and the world is most certainly ready for this next major release. Although there may not be award-winning, jaw-dropping features in 5.0, what it will be is a much cleaner and more efficient code base. Most of the old architecture will have been stripped out, along with other deprecated bits. In the end, the Linux kernel will be faster, more reliable, and even more secure.


This one should be easy: In 2019, Linux will dominate the following areas:

  • Cloud
  • IoT
  • Supercomputing
  • AI
  • Big Data
  • Dev Ops
  • Blockchain
  • Serverless computing
  • Containers

And that, my friends, is the 2019 outlook for open source and Linux. It’s going to be an exciting year.