Until a few years ago, hardly a day went by without an article being featured on Linux Today about how “the year of Linux” had arrived. Every Linux user with a blog was willing to bet, year after year, that this was finally going to be “the year of Linux.” This was going to be the year when the public got wise, quit paying the Microsoft tax and moved over to the obviously superior Linux.
And year after year, it didn’t happen.
In 2000, when MS released Windows ME, Linux writers rubbed their hands with glee because with an operating system this bad the public would now have to embrace Linux. Instead, the public continued to buy boxes with ME, and figured it was their own stupidity when several times per day they were forced to reboot due to a blue screen. Or that it was their lack of computer savvyness that made installing the scanner just purchased from Best Buy impossible.
When Longhorn was finally released as Vista in 2007, arguably even a worse OS than ME, Linux pundits were sure this would be the death of the Windows dynasty, that computer users would now become so disgusted with Microsoft products they’d be willing to give the Penguin a try. When they did, they’d be sure to be amazed to discover they’d been missing out on a superior computing experience and that Linux was easy enough for even grandma to use.
With every new d-day virus targeting Windows, Linux writers wrote about how this would bring them to Linux now. Just as every new security flaw discovered in Internet Explorer caused them to write in unison, “this has to mean the year of Linux is now.”
So here we are in 2010, and no one is writing about the year of Linux anymore. In fact, just the opposite. Every week or so an article will appear on Linux Today bemoaning the fact that the year of Linux will never come. We will never take over the desktop. We are not worthy. Linux is just too damn geeky. Always has been. Always will be.
The funny thing is, sometime in 2011 it’ll dawn on us that 2010 was/is the year of Linux.
While it’s true “the year of Linux” is not yet happening on the desktop, it will. Right now it’s a smartphone thing, which will soon encompass the tablet and netbook. I figure by next year your neighbor, the one who always buys what the sales staff at Best Buy talks him into purchasing, will be bragging to you about his new super-duper desktop running Linux. Except he won’t call it Linux. Nor will he call it Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, Debian, PCLinuxOS, Slackware, Gentoo, Knoppix, SUSE or Sabayon.
What he will call it is… Google.
It may be a version of Android. It may be some sort of Chrome cloud thing. It may be something that Google hasn’t even thought up yet. It will be developed by a company who’s motive will not be to sell support or use their distro as a springboard to a server edition. Instead, it will be developed to make Google the default search engine in as many homes as possible.
Yesterday Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC that consumers are snapping-up Android phones at the rate of 160,000 per day. That means every seven days over a million Android devices are put in the hands of consumers. The development community is also embracing Android. According to an article posted yesterday on Bloomberg Businessweek, over half of 2,733 developers surveyed by Appcelerator “see Android as having the greatest long-term potential among operating systems.”
People fall in love with their phones. Eventually they’ll want to have the same OS on their desktop or laptop, especially if it offers some of the same cool apps and has been optimized for the desktop – something that Google is sure to recognize and accommodate.
It appears that when open source finally brings Windows down, it won’t be by way of a traditional open source software development company. Google has found a new open source business model. And they are a giant who will relish the role of being a giant killer.