Open Source Predictions for 2004 - InformationWeek
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Mitch Wagner
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Open Source Predictions for 2004

The film critic Roger Ebert once said that lists are a lazy editor's way of creating something that looks like a story, but isn't. Ouch. And here's a list of predictions for Linux and open source in 2004. 1. The SCO lawsuit will simply disappear.

The film critic Roger Ebert once said that lists are a lazy editor's way of creating something that looks like a story, but isn't. Ouch. And here's a list of predictions for Linux and open source in 2004.

1. The SCO lawsuit will simply disappear: It's becoming more and more clear that SCO simply has no significant evidence of infringement. That's based on no inside information on my part -- simply an instinct. My Spidey-sense tells me that if SCO had hard evidence of infringement, we'd have seen it by now, either disclosed by SCO or leaked from some third party; there are plenty of people with knowledge of both Unix and Linux code. SCO has disclosed some code that it SAYS is evidence, but it's been pretty tepid stuff.

I have no idea how the lawsuit will disappear. What the Linux community would like is for a judge to throw the case out with some scathing commentary, and for SCO management and lawyers to face significant fines, jail time, flogging and being forced to sit through repeated viewings of the Ewok sequence from "The Return of the Jedi." Well, that's not going to happen. The case may be thrown out, but SCO's management and lawyers will emerge unscathed -- for better or worse, the American courts are set up to make it easy for someone with money to sue with impunity. SCO management, lawyers and investors are going to make a ton of money off of this, and live to laugh another day.

SCO might be bought up by someone with a stake in keeping Linux viable. The company will almost certainly not be bought up by IBM; if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now. Hewlett-Packard would be another candidate -- I have no idea whether they are interested, and, if interested, whether they have the resources.

There might be a management change at SCO, followed by a fast settlement.

The lawsuit will have no long-term effect on Linux and the open source community. Despite the lawsuit, Linux adoption is growing, and will continue to do so. Linux users fall into two camps with regard to the lawsuit: the ones who don't care, and the ones who hate SCO.

Now, some of you are saying, "Mitch, weren't you haranguing us all last year about how we should take the SCO lawsuit seriously? Did you change your mind about that, fella? Hoping we wouldn't notice the switcheroo?"

My response: No mind-change at all. You SHOULD take the SCO lawsuit seriously. After all, I could be wrong about all of this. As a matter of fact, I'm a little bit nervous about including this prediction, because it gives me the opportunity to be SPECTACULARLY wrong come Jan. 2005. However, I have a plan in place if that happens: I'll lie like a rug. I'll claim I never wrote this at all. I'll blame it all on Bill Gates.

2. Despite the collapse of the SCO lawsuit, we will see the first major court test of the General Public License. Somebody who's not SCO is going to sue to get the GPL overturned. That entity will, unlike SCO, have facts and law to back up his claim. That lawsuit may well not be resolved by Jan. 2005; when it is resolved, the GPL may have to be modified significantly, but the basic spirit of the GPL will stand up.

3. We'll see the first major trial of desktop Linux by a U.S. Global 2000 corporation. The company will roll out a few dozen or a few hundred seats to see if Linux is a viable alternative to Windows on the desktop. I don't THINK that we'll see a major corporation standardizing on Linux on the desktop -- but it could happen.

The penguin is the mascot of Linux, and when it comes to trying out new technology, big companies are like penguins. Here's how a flock of penguins jump into the water: They all stand around on the edge of a pool, shoulder to shoulder (do penguins even HAVE shoulders? Never mind. Stay with me on this), and jostle and bump each other. Eventually, one of the penguins is knocked into the pool. The other penguins watch for a little while to see if the first penguin gets eaten by anything -- if it's safe, the other penguins jump in.

As soon as the first big company has a successful, widespread Linux deployment on the desktop, others will follow quickly.

4. Linux won't gain significant desktop market share in 2004, but it will in 2005. That's when the fun REALLY starts, as Microsoft faces its first real competition for the desktop market since the 1980s.

5. Linux will continue to be Public Enemy Number One for Microsoft, but the competition won't hurt the Linux community. Indeed, both the Linux community and Microsoft will be stronger for the competition.

6. Mozilla will not gain significant market share against Microsoft Internet Explorer, but Mozilla users will continue to love their browser.

7. Proprietary vendors will borrow techniques from the open source community, including code-sharing and bringing users into the development process. Microsoft has already started that.

My next three predictions are pretty obvious. We'll look back a year from now and they will be right, but I won't deserve any credit for making these predictions, because they're as easy as predicting the sun will rise tomorrow. Nonetheless, I'm including them anyway because they'll be stories to watch in 2004. Also, they round out the prediction numbers to an even 10, which pleases my fussy little heart.

8. Novell will emerge as a Linux powerhouse after completion of the SUSE acquisition. That pleases me, I like Novell, they're a nice company to do business with.

9. We'll see distros based on the new 2.6 kernel, making Linux even better for desktops and enterprise applications.

10. Linux will continue to grow and gain market share.

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