Open-source predictions for 2022: Snap, Flatpak, CentOS Stream, Linux job demand and more

Jack Wallen makes his annual predictions for open source. Will this finally be the year of Linux on the desktop? Can open source solve supply-chain attacks? Will Steamdeck show the world Linux gaming?

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Image: Shutterstock/Arthur Palmer

I'm not going to lie, 2021 wasn't a bad year for Linux. No, it wasn't the "Year of the Linux desktop" like all hope it's going to be every year (this time around I'm not making that same mistake), but there was no denying the continued dominance of Linux in the enterprise space and the very slow (and subtle) growth of Linux on the desktop. And in just about every space (minus the smartphone arena), Linux made some serious gains.

SEE: Linux turns 30: Celebrating the open source operating system (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

But what's to come for 2022? Will it be the year of the Linux desktop? Probably not. That doesn't mean, however, the Linux desktop won't see dramatic improvement and expansion. Let's drop the ol' crown of prognostication onto our collective heads and make a few bold (and not so bold) predictions about where open-source is heading in the coming year.

Massive growth and acceptance

That's right, I'm starting out big. But honestly, this isn't such a far stretch, especially given how enterprise businesses absolutely depend on open-source technology. At this point, it's pretty much set in stone that open-source software drives business. But I believe we're going to see in 2022 that big business takes open-source technology to completely different heights. I'm fairly confident we're going to see completely new use-cases for open-source software that will drive massive growth in industries, allowing them to become even more inventive, more productive and even more agile. 

This will also begin to trickle down from larger enterprise businesses into the smaller markets, such that businesses that struggled to compete with the larger corporations will find a bit more of a level playing field (at least with their technology). Part of this will be driven by low-code/no-code solutions (that depend on open-source technology) allowing companies of all sizes to build creative software to empower their businesses.

A large company will adopt Linux as its desktop of choice

You betcha. This is going to happen. It may not happen in America, and it may not make headlines, but it's going to happen. This has been building for some time. And with the Windows 11 hardware requirements, some businesses are going to finally see the light that is open-source and Linux. The desktop of choice will most likely be Ubuntu, and the rollout will be so smooth it will go almost unnoticed.

This will happen with a business that doesn't make much use of proprietary desktop software and, instead, relies on web applications and services to function. Once the company realizes how much more productive and cost-effective Linux can be on the desktop, the decision will be a no-brainer.

A subtle shift in the desktop

We're going to see a subtle shift in the Linux desktop. Thanks to the likes of the up-and-coming Maui Shell (convergence notwithstanding), the Linux community will see that the modern take on the desktop can be as useful and powerful as the traditional.

But this shift isn't about GNOME vs. Cinnamon vs. KDE vs. Pantheon vs. Xfce, it's more about a shift in UX. Up until now, so many Linux desktop developers have been focused on creating for the Linux community. It is, after all, a familiar and welcoming group. I believe 2022 will see a shift in UX focus toward new users. This is the segment of society that Linux has, for the most part, ignored for years, and I believe developers will finally come to realize that growth only happens when you can easily expand via new users. This will lead to wide-scale innovation on the desktop, not to dumb down the interface but to actually smarten it. 

This will lead to some of the most inventive and usable solutions to ever arrive on the Linux desktop.

Wider acceptance of Snap and Flatpak

Snap and Flatpak have been met with much derision over the years. Part of the problem with that is people don't like change. But Snap and Flatpak not only simplify the installation of applications, but they also make it possible to make more applications available to the desktop. This cannot be stressed enough.

SEE: 40+ open source and Linux terms you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)

Consider this: On desktop distributions that have either Snap or Flatpak enabled out of the box, it's possible (and simple) to install applications like Slack, Spotify and Skype. Without Snap or Flatpak that process is a bit beyond the average users' reach. Linux needs this, and the community at large will finally come to realize the importance of these universal packages. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see a new distribution released that completely defaults to Snap or Flatpak installation from within its App Store. Such a distribution might not be as far away as you think. It also might be a real boon for new users. Imagine opening the App Store on a desktop distribution and not being completely bombarded by old-school, out-of-date applications that have little relevance to today's users. That could be a big win for some.

Demand for open-source IT pros

We're already at a point where enterprise businesses are scrambling to fill positions with IT pros who have open-source skills. That's only going to continue to trend upward in 2022. In fact, I predict the demand for open-source skills will be at the top of every business' list this year. And this won't just be about Kubernetes and containers. Businesses will be looking for general open-source skills for nearly every position. Why? Because they know open-source software will eventually power every aspect of their company.

So, polish off your resumes and make sure you've listed open-source near the top of your skillset.

The cure for supply-chain attacks

As long as hackers exist, supply-chain attacks will not stop. And when supply-chain attacks happen, the domino effect is widespread and bad. I believe this coming year the open-source community will really step up to the plate to find a cure for these attacks. Although they might not be able to put a complete end to this type of attack, we should see them lesson dramatically. 

This will be spearheaded by a group like the Linux Foundation, which has a vested interest in ensuring open-source software is not only capable of driving supply chains, but making them secure and reliable.

A new open-source social network will be launched

This might be wishful thinking on my part, but I believe 2022 will finally see the launch of a new type of social network site … one that is open-source from top to bottom. Not only will the site be driven by open-source technology, but its ethics will also be as transparent as its code. 

This new open-source social network might not immediately compete with Facebook, but it will have an impressive launch and give Zuckerberg's empire some new and serious competition to consider.

CentOS Stream will find a new audience

I'm not gonna lie, I've tested CentOS Stream 9 and found it to be not nearly as awful as many of us assumed. It's solid, reliable and just as familiar as CentOS 8 was. I'm not saying that the community at large will openly adopt CentOS Stream 9 as they once did with the traditional release, but I believe it will see considerable usage for development and testing environments.

Steamdeck will prove Linux can game

And finally, Steamdeck will, once and for all, prove that Linux can game like the competition. No, Linux will not usurp Windows as the ruler of desktop gaming, but what 2022 will finally prove to companies that develop games is that Linux is a viable option. This realization will lead to even more games being made available to Linux (via Steam) to the point that Linux can stand toe-to-toe with Windows in the gaming space.

And there you have it, my open-source predictions for 2022. Hopefully, my prognostications will be spot on this year, so open source and Linux can enjoy one of its best 365 days around the sun.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....