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Linux Looking Forward: Twenty Linux Luminaries Look at Linux in 2004

Linux Looking Forward: Twenty Linux Luminaries Look at Linux in 2004

In the course of putting this issue together we decided we wanted to get some predictions for what will be happening with Linux over the next year. So, we came up with some questions and sent them out to a bunch of people we know in the Linux community whose opinions we respect. Well, the response surprised us to say the least. It seemed like everyone had some ideas. The community of people that is developing around this magazine really came through!

After we saw the response we were getting, we thought our readers might be interested in giving us some of their ideas as well, so we published a short blurb on LinuxWorld.com with the predictions we received from Eric Raymond (Open Source evangelist and author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and The Art of Unix Programming) and John Terpstra (cofounder of the Samba project and lead author of The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide). We figured a few thousand people would read the predictions and we'd get a few e-mails and comments from our readers with some of their ideas.

Instead of a steady flow of ideas, we saw a flood. This was magnified when Slashdot picked up the story and we ended up with well over 20,000 reads of the article in just over 48 hours!

More important were all the ideas generated. If you followed the comments on our site and the hundreds of comments in the Slashdot thread, you could see that the huge community of people behind Linux is brimming with excitement over the future. These people are so full of ideas and enthusiasm, they just have to share them!

So following are some of the many predictions we received from our friends and readers for what will be happening with Linux in 2004. The original questions we asked are presented as well. I hope you'll take a moment to go to linuxworld.com and read the predictions our other readers have left there - and take a few minutes to add your own predictions.

What are my predictions? Only this - that whatever happens with Linux in 2004 will be because of the sweat and excitement of the people in the Linux community (that's you!).

Have a great year!
—Kevin Bedell

Which Linux application area do you believe will grow the fastest in 2004?
I think media players in some form or another - turning your phone into an iPod - will be hot by the end of 2004. Due to the nature of Linux on phones, we'll see a lot more experimentation and creativity applied to this than with the other phone platforms.
-Thomas Reardon

The application area that is well positioned for growth in 2004 is 64-bit applications. With the current and emerging versions of the kernel improving performance issues that are important to the enterprise, like scalability, it will allow customers to run more powerful applications on 64-bit architecture, expanding the use of Linux to more critical areas of a large enterprise, like the data center. Over the years we've seen Linux start in specific areas of a business's IT infrastructure, and as that business experienced the cost and performance benefits of Linux - and as more applications became available - businesses were able to expand their use of Linux to other areas of their infrastructure. In the beginning, Linux was used mainly for file/print and Web server apps. As more apps became Linux-enabled, businesses started running critical applications on Linux, like e-commerce, accounting, CRM, ERP, etc. Now, as 64-bit applications become Linux-enabled, we'll see businesses take Linux to the next level, for example, large database and graphical design applications. Unlike Microsoft Windows, Linux gives enterprise customers the choice of selecting the 64-bit processor that best meets their requirements - Linux runs on Itanium, Opteron, and POWER. 2004 will be the year Linux is used for more powerful, 64-bit applications spanning the data center, departmental server, and engineering workstation areas.
-Adam Jollans

The LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/PERL/Python) environment will become more recognized as a foundational solution in 2004.
-John M. Weathersby

Office on the desktop. The economies of running OpenOffice.org on a Linux desktop are just staggering. Combined with continuing improvements in various Linux desktop tools, the technology and economies will make a potent mix. This may not be very apparent in the corporate U.S. environment, but it will be very apparent in academic environments, nonprofit organizations, and developing countries.
-Chandler Kant

The Open Government Interoperability Project will be the largest project in the history of open source, including the Internet. We're building 185 applications for state and local governments using LAMP and specifically Project Leopard. The working group consists of a credible mix of renowned academicians, publishers, government CIOs, and industry people. The working group is writing an ISO standard for secure interoperability using the 23950 ISO standard also called Z39.50.

Participation comes from governments in the U.S. and around the globe. Consider it like a New England barn raising where state and local governments have begun reinventing technology in the open source way and taking control of their destiny.

We particularly appeal to "first responders" who need to application interoperability.

We'll save taxpayers money and enable governments around the world to automate their business processes.

The urls include http://ogip.org, http://oss-institute.org, and http://leopard.sourceforge.org
-Tom Adelstein

Linux will move into the back office; the system that proved so useful as a file, Web, and mail server will run more applications like SAP. I have recently investigated Compiere, the open source ERP product, and found both its feature set and its rate of adoption impressive. We'll see more applications like that catching on.
-Andy Oram

I believe desktop applications will grow a lot faster in 2004. These applications will be there especially for businesses. There is a growing interest and adoption of Linux in businesses and companies are actively deploying Linux in the area of desktop applications. With the immense scope that desktop applications have, I believe this area surpass all other application areas.
-Rahul Chopra

During 2004 there will be significant growth in use of Linux for file and print serving, directory management and serving, and in groupware solutions. These back-end (server-based) facilities will liberate the desktop and will open the way to greater desktop deployment.
-John H. Terpstra

Office software, starting from a small base but growing hugely as government adoption programs kick in worldwide.
-Eric Raymond

Will 2004 finally be the year when Linux makes significant in-roads on the desktop?
As Linux continues its unstoppable growth, companies around the world are beginning to investigate the possibilities of Linux on the desktop. New markets will develop, and with them, new opportunities for growing revenues. Desktop vendors need to pay close attention to what customers are demanding and have a plan in place when these new markets materialize. Linux was founded on the idea of choice - customers will respond to desktop solutions that use industry-standard components (for better performance) and that work with ISV options; companies who today offer the freedom to use the hardware/software that best fits their business - not lock you into proprietary solutions - will lead Linux onto the desktop and into new markets tomorrow.
-HP Linux Team

2004 will see the largest percentage increase in Linux desktop usage. The increase will compel small and mid-sized software vendors to commit to a Linux desktop application strategy. Expect repeats of the Munich experience throughout the United States and certainly ongoing throughout the rest of the world.
-Jordan Rosen, CEO Lille Corp.

No, although it will get way better by the end of the year, thanks to the work of Nat and Miguel and their team at Novell, who have just hired gobs of people to work on just that. Also, I think that Red Hat will eventually have to retract their previous statements and put some work into the desktop. I think that 2005 might be that year, provided we can do a bit of catch up with Apple and broaden our desktop device integration support.
-Chris DiBona

2004 will be a big year for Linux and other open source applications on the desktop, but I think most of the serious effort will happen behind the scenes. I think that 2005 will be the year that an open source desktop environment will hit it big in corporate and personal environments.
-John M. Weathersby

I don't think so, but Linux Terminal Server Project may be near a tipping point. Once system administrators realize how easy it is to convert a whole building full of systems to a robust Linux solution using LTSP, there's no telling how fast the move will go.
-Andy Oram

Yes. A lot of IT companies have realized the significance of Linux and have a long-term plan for the market. Notable among them are Sun, Novell, and IBM. The response to Linux events by corporations has been overwhelming. This is evident from the success of expositions like LinuxWorld. In Asia, Linux Asia 2004 (being organized in February) is seeing active interest and participation by corporations all across Asia. I believe these developments are significant and 2004 will be the year when Linux will move from the back end to the desktop.
-Rahul Chopra

2004 will be the year that Sun renames the "Java Desktop System" - in recognition of its SUSE/Mozilla/GNOME 2/Evolution roots - "Sun Linux" or the "Sun Desktop."
-Jeremy Geelan

Yes. Government adoptions happening in Massachusetts, Brazil, South Africa, and all over the Pacific Rim are driving this trend. There's a lot happening in the private sector, too, but the adopters there won't talk about that because they want to hold on to their advantage over competitors paying the Microsoft tax.
-Eric Raymond

If Fedora Core is any indication, I think it's already happening. Of course, there's also companies like Xandros and Lindows, which have made significant inroads. Notice that Lindows is doing a purely desktop rollout for 30,000 public-use machines in Nova Scotia, Canada. This fact suggests that someone up in NS thinks that Lindows is easy enough for the average person to use.
-Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Which distributions will show the greatest growth in 2004?
The distribution that is the most well engineered, standards compliant, and cost effective, and has the widest ISV eco-system.
-Ranajit Nevatia

SUSE and BSD. Why? Both will grow because of the confusion that Red Hat has brought to the market recently with Szulik's comment about the Linux desktop.
-Chris DiBona

We are very impressed with the community growing around Gentoo Linux. I think you'll see Gentoo start to flourish in 2004.
-John M. Weathersby

SUSE. I like Novell as a Linux company. They certainly have a much better chance of uniting the Linux community than Red Hat. Red Hat has frustrated or upset everyone I know more than once. The only engineer we had who loved Red Hat didn't make the cut as a developer for us, and he doesn't work here any more. I think he is the only engineer we have ever fired.
-J.C. Utter

I'm hoping Fedora will do well, but a lot of people may say, "If I'm offered a Fedora that uses a Debian-like development model, I might as well use Debian." Knoppix is also highly praised for people who are just curious about Linux. SUSE has the biggest recent boost of all the distributions, obviously, but it will take time to ramp up in the U.S. and they're not helping much with their distasteful ads.
-Andy Oram

Red Hat (if you consider Red Hat and Fedora as one) and SUSE (aka Novell).
-Rahul Chopra

SUSE (or is that Novell?) will be the global leader in desktop and server deployments as the VAR channel finally finds confidence in a supported Linux product that will not take away their lunch.
-John H. Terpstra

I think 2004 is going to be a big year for Fedora and SUSE, and a challenge for Debian (because Fedora now offers apt for RPM).
-Eric Raymond

I expect Fedora Core will grow quickly in 2004, once many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding it are dealt with.
-Dee-Ann LeBlanc

What major Linux IPO or Linux acqusition will occur in 2004?
We expect our company [ImageStream] will be one of the most important IPOs in the next 12 to 24 months. It is not clear if we will make our sales goals in time for a 2004 IPO, but we are already working with several of the biggest names in telecommunications equipment and services, so anything is possible.

Red Hat was the big IPO that was associated with Linux taking on Microsoft. We think our IPO will be the biggest Linux IPO since Red Hat. In the end, there aren't any other proven Linux companies that are positioned to take on Cisco in the router market, and we have already proven that we have a full-featured product that is faster and less expensive. In addition, Cisco doesn't have many real competitors in the midrange router market, so we are fortunate to work in a market that behaves like there is only competitor to beat.
-J.C. Utter

I'm predicting it will be a Hollywood-effects company like Hammerhead Productions that will either be purchased (HP?) or go public.
-Brian E. Ferguson

Of course, LinuxCertified, Inc...Well, the second candidate would be Google, which I consider a Linux company.
-Chandler Kant

What will be the coolest new Linux application in 2004?
Platform Ignorant Data Sharing format, "save once, read anywhere."
-Ranajit Nevatia

Dashboard, provided Nat Friedman and Novell continue down this path. It is beyond cool. If not, I see this as the year that people will see OpenOffice starting to be snappier.
-Chris DiBona

OSSI's Project Leopard is the coolest thing to hit the market in a long time. Leopard is an open source program that allows government entities to download and implement a complete LAMP environment in a matter of minutes. It is a foundational piece that will enable cash-strapped state and municipal governments to adopt and deploy Web-based programs within their budgetary restraints and in an open source environment. It's free to download at http://leopard.sourceforge.net.
-John M. Weathersby

  1. OC48, OC192, and 10 GigE LAN/WAN switching
  2. Soft-switches for converged SS7, IP, and VoIP applications
  3. Single-wire telco services for converged voice, video, and data
- J.C. Utter

I think instead of new applications, a significant development will be localization and personalization of Linux distributions for different uses. We had started this initiative of developing specialized flavors of Linux (called LiFY) of directed at education, office, admin, graphic designing, and other uses. These flavors lead to easy adoption of Linux for the specific uses.
-Rahul Chopra

OpenOffice will announce the coolest enhancements that will permit it to be used in DocBook based automated publishing technology. The new version of OpenOffice will provide a collaboration facility that will set a new standard for corporate office users.
-John H. Terpstra

A rise in gaming options if I have my way!
-Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Will the SCO debacle slow Linux adoption over the next year?
At the end of the day, for most CIOs, Linux is about value. The cost savings and price/performance that Linux offers is far too great for CIOs to ignore, so despite some concerns regarding the SCO litigation, Linux will continue to grow. Industries that currently embrace the Linux platform, i.e., financial services, high-performance technical computing, and entertainment, will help create standards and drive Linux today, tomorrow, and beyond. Open source programs and initiatives such as the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) and HP's Gelato Federation will help create consensus and broaden the reach of open source as Linux evolves deeper into the data center. More companies may follow HP's lead and offer indemnification to their customers, giving more CIOs the green light to move forward with deploying Linux, hastening its growth, and expanding the breadth and depth of open source in the enterprise.
-HP Linux Team

I don't see that happening. History demonstrates that intellectual property issues rarely slow down the adoption of new technology. If the technology is superior, it will prevail regardless of the inevitable threat of lawsuits by alleged IP holders.
-Brian E. Ferguson

No. Linux is already so entrenched, there is little that can stop its adoption. The SCO publicity may sway some away from using it, but an early challenge like this should make Linux stronger over the long haul.

I think SCO will end up looking foolish because they have already released their software under GPL. In addition, anyone who knows Linux knows that any infringing code will be replaced by code that does not infringe on any of SCO's trademarks as they may be recognized by the courts.

I understand that it is possible to extract license fees from end users, even though their decisions may have been made without prior knowledge of any licensing or copyright disputes. But this will not make SCO any friends, and they have relegated themselves to the status of a company that has no future other than what they can make from lawsuits. And I don't think their lawsuits will make them much money in the end. They are a desperate company that has adopted desperate measures. Everyone can see through them because they have already failed once as a Linux distributor.
-J.C.Utter

Not so we'll notice. I won't be surprised if the judge has thrown SCO out of court by the time you read this.
-Eric Raymond

...And the kernel?
The year 2004 for Linux will open with the 2.6 Kernel going to general availability. This is exciting because it will improve the behavior of Linux on form factors other than servers such as workstations. I see the growth coming in horizontal scaling and in the acceptance of the Java desktop on Linux. Management will finally be brought into focus, especially cluster management and Web services, to enable the elusive dream of on-demand computing. We need to work as an industry to ensure this is based on open and standards-based computing.
-Samuel J. Greenblatt

The Linux 2.6 kernel makes incremental improvements in a wide range of areas, but the most significant and visible market advances will be in the embedded and NUMA markets.

With the merge of uClinux project, Linux 2.6 will be poised to offer support for many more embedded chips in the mainstream kernel. We will see the beginning of a large increases in the use of Linux on everything from PDAs to kitchen appliances.

Additionally, the new NUMA support and continued scheduler improvement will give Linux a big boost in the large server market, putting ever more pressure on competing Unix architectures which dominate this space.
-Tom Barton

Linux in the enterprise...
2003 was a distinguished year for the early adoption of enterprise Linux. 2004 will be the year that virtually every business will have to consider Linux as a viable enterprise platform. Last year's Linux deployments are enabling companies of all sizes, spanning all industries to reap the benefits of a stable, efficient operating system on low cost servers. These references will play a big role in showcasing the significant benefits of Linux to the more reluctant, conservative players.

Also, Linux has proven to be very solid for mid-range deployments. We are seeing a strong push toward the really high-end workhorses. The big iron systems are running on Linux or alternatively - clusters of Linux systems are replacing big, monolithic servers.
-Wim Coekaerts

What will be the most significant factor driving public adoptions of Linux in 2004?
Without doubt, the single most important factor that will drive Linux adoption in 2004 will be the ratification of open public standards compliance for Linux and Linux based applications. By October 2004, Microsoft will start an intensive campaign to promote their Longhorn technology as Linux standards compliant.
-John H. Terpstra

Which Hollywood starlet might Tux run off with and secretly get married to?
I think Tux is a complete man in and of himself, and does not require a mate in order to validate his existence.
-Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Hmm, I did not realize that Tux is actually male. If he is, though, he may be able to speed up his evolution with an exchange of genetic material with Darwin.
-Andy Oram

Tux has had several girlfriends over the past four years. Seems most left in the same hurry they arrived in. Seems Tux remains focused on being around for a long time. Chances are Tux will remain a bachelor.
-John H. Terpstra

Liv Tyler. Hey, we know Arwen Undomiel is into the whole trans-species thing...
-Eric Raymond

Alright, fine, I'll speculate. Maybe Tux'd like Cate Blanchett. This seems a bit silly...I'm just glad we didn't pick a color like Stanford did.

And as to marrying in secret, I'll only say, are you kidding? If there is one thing we've learned in the open source world is that there are no secrets, nor anyone capable of keeping them, which is part of what makes it great!
-Chris DiBona

First, the question is if penguins are monogamous.

Second, if he was going to run off with a starlet, it would have been during the boom days of 1998-2000. Now Tux must realize that he's a working stiff like the rest of us and he should marry for love. The starlets already know this. To them, Tux is just another well-dressed portly guy with an above average IQ and some marketable technical skills, who probably can't dance and has herring and coffee breath in the morning. Without a lot of money, that ain't real sexy.
-John M. Weathersby

More Stories By Kevin Bedell

Kevin Bedell, one of the founding editors of Linux.SYS-CON.com, writes and speaks frequently on Linux and open source. He is the director of consulting and training for Black Duck Software.

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Most Recent Comments
Marc 01/09/04 04:47:58 AM EST

I am really impressed by the comments of leaders, especially Rahul Chopra and Eric Raymond. Their vision shows that Linux will rule the World.

Andrei N 01/02/04 08:26:21 PM EST

I do not believe i have red anything on the gaming issue in here and im surprised that is not considered a BIG issue. Anyway i believe that Linux gaming will drastically explode in the next year. Given companies like S2 Games releasing Linux ready games.

Arturo 'Buanzo' Busleiman 01/02/04 12:52:20 PM EST

2004 is going to be one hell of a good year for the Free Software, Open Source, Linux or whatever-you-want-to-call-it movement. I have been using/studying/deploying GNU/Linux systems for the last 10 years now, and I think the most important area of success during 2004 will be the End-User. But not only because of things like OpenOffice and emulation software like Wine/WineX/CrossOver, but because it is now easier to understand and develop programs for GNU/Linux. There are both free and propietary RAD tools, which will help programmers from other platforms, used to that kind of development, to do his/her job. Web programmers have been using PHP, Perl and Java for a long time now on the Windows platform, and now they feel confident to start developing under our beloved environment. They are sick of inestability. And, anyway, their code is usually hosted on LAMP servers.

The only thing I believe is not going to fullfill the users expectatives will be the Audio field. Now Linux is heading in the right direction: kernel-level ALSA and API's like Jack, and GUI toolkits we all know (each tday more mature and beautiful, although I'm not a GUI user) will allow programmers to create native Linux applications with better (or the same) functionality as Windows' cooledit, fruityloops, reason, etc. Anyway, the multitrack hard disk recording stuff is already there and its very good, but still... not nice enough for musicians.

Talking about distributions, I believe Fedora is not going to keep RedHat's kingdom [which I never really liked], and I believe the final field will have Gentoo flavors, SuSE, Mandrake, Slackware and Debian as user-professional-enterprise scaled distributions, whilst Smoothwall and similar distros will keep growing, and will probably implement etherboot and thinclient models on the production-code.

Maybe I should quit drinking "Speed" on the morning :)

pinGooo 12/30/03 07:32:02 AM EST

odd that no one mentions the very idea mooted in the adjoining LinuxWorld item, namely that MS in 2004 or 2005 decides to port Windows to Linux