The year 2012 has been extremely successful for the GNU/Linux and Open Source technologies. These technologies dominated almost every aspect of the IT world. Here are some of the top movers & shakers which changed the IT landscape in 2012 and hold great promises for the future.
Android has finally brought Linux to mainstream and made it a dominant force in the consumer space. Google shook the market with the launch of extremely cheap yet elegant Nexus 7 which has become a rage. The company did not stop there and showed that smartphones and tablet should be as expensive as they are at the moment. The company released Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 which are comparatively cheap and are already sold out.
Android eventually did what Canonical has been trying with Ubuntu since 2004 – make Linux a dominant force in the consumer space.
Android also managed to win major legal fights that Apple and Oracle waged against it. Oracle saw one of the most embarrassing defeats in a high profile case where as Apple, after initial success started to lose its battle around the globe. The UK court forced the company to apologize publicly for accusing Samsung of copying its designs.
The leading force in the open source world, which contributes heavily to the development of the Linux kernel and some of the core technologies used in the Linux world became the first pure open source company to cross the $1 billion revenue mark in this year. Red Hat has proved that a company can become hugely profitable with pure open source technologies. The company also made some significant acquisitions throughout the year to strengthen it’s position on the cloud space. It acquired and then open source OpenShift, further sending the message that open source is the only way to go in future.
This UK-based project has become a phenomenon globally. The $35 credit-card sized computer running Debian, Fedora, Arch etch…is being used not only by individuals but also by businesses. The device expected to hit one million shipment by this Christmas. This tiny device has revolutionized the computing world, making is one of the most important innovations of 2012.
The Document Foundation brought almost dead OpenOffice back to life with LibreOffice. The body gained legal status in Feb 2012 as a German Stiftung. This kind of structure is recognized worldwide as a legally stable, safe and long term entity, providing the ideal cornerstone for the long term growth of the community and its software. There has been a huge adoption of LibreOffice globally. According to a TDF report, The number of unique IPs who have downloaded LibreOffice has grown from just over 200,000 per week in January to well over 600,000 in December, for a total of 15 million unique IPs in 2012. Linux users, with very few exceptions, do not download LibreOffice as they can get the software from the repository of their distribution of choice. The year 2013 may see a mobile port of LibreOffice along with a much anticipated brand new UI for desktops.
Linux Mint has been rising in popularity as it tweaked and made Gnome 3 Shell more usable for user. In 2012 LM replaced Ubuntu from the #1 spot on DistroWatch and has now maintained a very huge gab with Ubuntu sliding to #3 after Mageia (fork of once extremely popular Mandriva). Linux Mint’s approach has been simply, and is also the reson of it’s success. Instead of innovating for the sake of innovation and making it harder for users to learn new tricks to do the same old tasks, it put users in the center and changed/tweaked technologies to offer users with the same interface on top of the latest and greatest technologies.
Cloud remained the buzz word for the year (though it was also as confusion as it could be). MegaUpload disasteer and the way Microsoft blocked SkyDrive users raised serious concern around data syncing cloud services. It is becoming increasing important that just the way GNU/Linux and Open Source gives user complete control over a user must also have control over his cloud computing. No 3rd party, whether a company like Microsoft or repressive government, should gain warrant-less access to user’s personal data. This is where ownCloud emerges as the ‘GNU/Linux’ of the cloud world. Anyone can download ownCloud, buy a domain not controlled by the US and set up a server outside the US to run her ownCloud instance. This will keep your private data away from the hands of governments and companies like Microsoft. The team has establish a company which now sells enterprise solutions so there a sustainable business model behind ownCloud. ownCloud holds great potential for the year 2013.
One field which was not taking advantage of Open Source and GNU/Linux was the gaming consoles. With the success of Android presence and unexpected areas gave some hope for Linux’s arrival to gaming consoles. Julie Uhrman created OUVY in 2012 which became one of the most successful Kickstarter projects ever. OUYA managed to shipt first stock for developers in 2012, making 2013 a promising year for this Android-based open source gaming console.
After gaming film-editing is another weak spots for GNU/Linux as there are no professional grade film-editing. LightWorks was promised for Linux and was made available to limited users, we may see any release only in 2013. However, there is a promising Kickstarter project, just like OUYA, which may bring professional grade, open source film-editing to GNU/Linux. The project is its initial stage and is not yet a replacement of Adobe Premier, FCP or Sony Vegas Pro it is under heavy development and may see feature rich releases in 2013.
KDE’s project lead Aaron Seigo dared to bring the first tablet to run a pure GNU/Linux based distribution. KDE’s Active Plasma is optimized for tablets which gives it quite a lot of advantage over other competitors which are not yet ready to take advantage of the touch based-devices. Unfortunately, the devices have not been shipped yet due to manufacturing issues. It took Apple almost 3 decadses to marter the supply chain so we do hope that 2013 will see the release of Vivaldi.
Steam for Linux
Though it’s not an Open Source project, the arrival of Steam for Linux patches yet another huge hole in the GNU/Linux — lack of professional games for the platform. Steam’s arrival to GNU/Linux also encourages Nvidia (which was fingered by Linus Torvalds) also announced enhanced drivers for Linux. Steam may increase the adoption of Linux and encourage other game developers to port their game to GNU/Linux.
Microsoft succeeded in turning market leading Nokia into it’s Pizza (hardware) delivery guy and dismantle the core open source projects started by Nokia — trying to damage the open source world. However, Qt was taken over by Digia which has just released Qt5 at the same time MeeGo team left Nokia and started Jolla to being MeeGo to the market. The company has already succeeded in cracking deals with Chinese and Finnish players to bring the Jolla powered devices to the market, so the year 2013 is going to be exciting for Jolla.
Google once again returned as the leading sponsor of Mozilla Firefox, through the search engine deal, the organization also managed to crack a deal with Microsoft which was responsible to butchering Netscape, which returned at Mozilla. Mozilla’s Thunderbird reportedly uses Bing as the search engine. However, the biggest story was the launch of Firefox OS, earlier known as Boot to Geeko, an Open Source operating system for mobile device. The organization demonstrated the OS at the Mobile World Congress this year and also announce market place to sell apps for Firefox OS as well as announced deals with hardware players to bring Firefox phones to the market. On a negative side, the organization also announced that it was putting Thunderbird on innovation freeze.
The year has not been very exciting for Canonical/Ubuntu. Despite big promises around Ubuntu for Android and Ubuntu TV, there were no products announced till the end of the year. Even companies like Jolla managed to crack hardware deals with leading players and expect hardware to be available in the market, there are no concrete reports around Ubuntu TV or Ubuntu for Android.
Canonical got bad press when it pulled out of Kubuntu funding. The Kubuntu developer Jonatha Riddell quit Canonical and joined BlueSystems which is now sponsoring Kubuntu.
While Unity continue to receive criticism for lack of personalization and customization, it attracted ‘serious’ criticism from bodies like EFF and FSF over Amazon shopping lens which are enabled by default and send local search queries to Ubuntu servers.
Another controversy was with Indie Game which accused Canonical of selling their game on Ubuntu Software Center without permission and not paying the developers anything from the sales for almost an year.
Canonical has never been shy in trying out new things and admitting its failure if they don’t work out. Canonical has also been extremely flexible and open in making big changes. So, it is expected that 13.04 may bring the much needed changes to its shopping lens as demanded by FSF and EFF. This year may also see the release of Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu for Android and some Canonical hardware running Ubuntu tablets and smartphones.