5 top Linux and open source stories in 2013

5 top Linux and open source stories in 2013

Summary: Linux, open source software, and the open source method quietly grew stronger over all areas of computing during 2013.

Fantastic Tux Linux

Linux has long ruled some areas of computing such as supercomputing. But in 2013, Linux and the open source method of developing software started to quietly dominate all aspects of computing, from cars to the cloud, and end-user computing, thanks in part to Android and Chrome OS.

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The 20 most significant events in Linux's 20-year history

The 20 most significant events in Linux's 20-year history

Linux is 20 years so let's take a walk though time with Linux at some of its high, and low, points.

I've been watching Linux since its first days over 20 years ago and even I've been impressed at its forward movement in 2013.

Here are the top five developments as I see them. I'll guarantee that some of them you've never heard of, but believe me when I say you will be influenced by them in the years to come. No matter what kind of computing you're involved in, you're going to be using Linux and open source software.

1. Open source software methodology goes everywhere

It's rare for developers these days not to use or create open source software. Even Microsoft is putting more energy into its open source efforts, such as Node.js, a tool/framework that uses JavaScript as its scripting engine. After all, Microsoft even helps build Linux these days.

But also what surprises me is how major companies of all sorts have united under the leadership of The Linux Foundation to create open source projects to unify their efforts

In 2013 alone, The Linux Foundation brought together the AllSeen Alliance for the Internet of things; OpenBEL for open source biological research; OpenDaylight, for almost all the Software-Defined Networking (SDN) companies; and Open Virtualization Alliance, and Xen Project for KVM and Xen virtualization.

And it's not just The Linux Foundation. Facebook's Open Compute Project has brought open source methodology to the data center. Juniper with Contrail has its own open source SDN take. And, Apache continues to make advantages projects such as Hadoop for Big Data and Lucene and Solr for search.

What all these projects have in common is that they're bringing together old enemies to work together. These companies are doing this not because there's anything magical or politically correct about open source. They're using open source because it enables them to create the best software at affordable rates. Pragmatically speaking, companies have decided it makes better business sense to share unified, open software than to create fragmented, proprietary programs.

2. The rise of the Chromebook

You can argue how popular Google's Linux-powered Chromebooks really are, but here are a few more facts showing that Chromebooks are quickly gaining users.

Dell, the last major OEM to not have a Chromebook, is releasing its first Chromebook in early 2014. Consumer electronics giant LG will also be releasing a new form factor for Chrome OS: the Chromebase. This is an all-in-one (AIO) PC that combines Chrome with a 21.5-inch display with 1,920 x 1,080 full HD resolution.

It also appears that Android is making more of a move to the desktop. According to reports, "PC Plus" machines are on their way. These laptops will include both Windows 8.1 and Android. These first of these will be unveiled at the CES expo in Las Vegas in January.

With Windows 8.x's uphill struggle to gain market-share as quickly as previous versions, and Microsoft with its Surface devices now competing directly with its PC partners, it's no surprise that Linux-based desktop competition beyond hard-core Linux users has finally started to emerge.

3. SteamOS: Mainstream Linux gaming arrives

Nothing underlines this shift in desktops more than Valve, a major PC gaming company, releasing SteamOS. This is a Debian-based Linux that's expressively designed for Linux PC gaming.

Like those other companies that have invested in Linux and open source software, Valve isn't doing this because they have warm, fuzzy feeling about Linux. No, Valve has released its own desktop Linux, and Steam Machines, dedicated Linux gaming consoles, because, "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space," according to Valve's billionaire chief executive Gabe Newell earlier this year.

As far as Valve is concerned, Linux is the future of computing.

4. Clouds: Linux everywhere

You can argue over the rise of Linux on the desktop, but no one can argue about how influential Linux is in clouds. With the exception of Microsoft's Azure, all major cloud software platforms — including Amazon's EC2 cloud, Google Compute Engine, and the various OpenStack implementations — are all based on Linux and open source software. For that matter, due to popular demand, you can also run Ubuntu, CentOS, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), and openSUSE on Azure.

If you're going to be using the cloud for IT soon — and chances are you will be — you're going to be using Linux. It's just that simple.

5. Android rules mobile

Away from the desktop, Linux, in the form of Android, already rules end-user computing. Android has a comfortable lead on smartphones over Apple iOS. And by the middle of this year, share in Android tablets blew past Apple's iPad line. The number one mobile operating system is now Android. The only real question is who will be in third place behind Android and iOS.

Indeed, with the continued decline of PCs, it seems possible that Android may yet become the single most popular end-user operating system on all platforms.

So, there you have it. In a year where there were no "big" Linux stories, Linux and open source continued to grow in every aspect of computing. The coming year will only see more of the same. The Linux Foundation's executive director Jim Zemlin recently declared that 2013 was the year of "Linux on Everything." 

He was right, and we're only going to see more of Linux running everything in the years to come.

Related stories:

Topics: Enterprise Software, Cloud, Google, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Networking, Open Source, Software

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  • I would have thought the Munich migration

    would have rated mention as well.
    • Agreed.

      but that wouldn't have advanced the agendas of certain people at ZDnet.
      • It would have advanced Steven J Vaughn-Nichols's agenda

        but this site is not about agendas, no matter how much the ABMer's would like us to believe the case to be otherwise.
        John Zern
        • SJV-N is a whitewash

          it's just to show how zdnet is not microsoft trolling site, which it basically is.
          • If it is...

            ...then why do you read it?
            John L. Ries
          • A number of ZDNet bloggers beyond SJVN cover Linux

            J.A. Watson does it full time. Plenty of other bloggers write about Android, Sailfish OS, Firefox OS and Tizen as well as the Raspberry Pi.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Clarification: "J.A. Watson does it full time"

            I don't mean to imply that J.A. Watson's blog at ZDNet is his full-time job. Rather, that, thus far, his blogs have all covered Linux in one way or another.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
    • And La Gendarmerie Nationale


      But in both cases I would like tto see an independent appraisal of true medium term costs

      I have some Germans reporting to me who did work as contractors at Munich, and their view of the result to come was not good.
  • It must kill you that Android leapfrogged Linux

    It took big bad corporate Google to impose a set of APIs, cut through the petty infighting, and create something that people will willingly buy.

    I think that is the real lesson here. People want choice, but they don't want infinite choice. The lack of strong leadership and endless squabbles in the Linux community set back Linux adoption at least 10 years.

    Good luck getting anyone to admit that though.
    • Android is a Linux

      My Android:
      Linux version 3.1.10-gle8b3d8 (android-build@vpbs1.mtv.corp.google.com) (gcc version 4.7 (GC) ) #1 SMP PREEMPT Tue Jun 11 23:51:41 PDT 2013
      • But Android has its own API

        I don't accept his thesis, but I will give him that.

        Developing for Linux is almost exactly like developing for any other UNIX flavor, which means if you develop for Linux (console or X) your work is easily portable to all other UNIX flavors (including OSX) and if you use the right toolkit, Windows.
        John L. Ries
        • Hmm

          As far as I know, the kernel maybe modified but, it is still Linux at heart.

          KDE has its own API as well and while I think they're the same now, GNOME had its own API as well.
        • learn the basics first...

          ...operating system are named by kernel, always were always will be.

          therefore, there is no GNU/LINUX like stallman wanted but it's called linux.

          and also, android is just a linux distro, nothing else.
          • Not so

            OSF/1 was based on the Mach kernel. There are other examples.
            John L. Ries
          • yeah right...

            ...please continue mentioning other "no one heard of", abandoned, irrelevant os.
          • I seem to recall...

            ...that OSX also uses Mach, but I could be wrong on that point.

            Regardless, the previous counterexample is completely valid. I believe there are even still Tru64 systems still in use.
            John L. Ries
          • deathtoms: "there is no GNU/Linux like stallman wanted"

            Sure there are. gnu.org maintains a list of Free GNU/Linux distros:

            "Free GNU/Linux distributions

            And Debian also uses GNU/Linux to describe it's own distro:

            "The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

            deathtoms: "android is just a linux distro"

            While it's true that Android is a Linux distro, it's not "just" a distro. The AOSP has become an important base distro, just like Debian GNU/Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Think of Amazon's Fire HD Tablets and CyanoGenMod. And, for those in Richard Stallman's camp, there's the Replicant Project which is a fully free AOSP-based Android.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • hallucinations

            your post doesn't prove anything.
            you just list stallman's claims.

            take any of those distros, just install flash and you will get "no stallman approval" distro.

            what do you want to say: when i take "stallman approved" distro it's called GNU/linux and when i install flash on it it's called linux than?
            that's insane.

            if i got you wrong, please explain.
          • deathtoms: "you just list stallman's claims"

            Nope, the Debian Project considers itself to be GNU/Linux and it isn't in Stallman's list because of its non-free repository.

            Both Trisquel and gNewSense also label themselves as GNU/Linux independently of Stallman's list (check out their top-level web sites).

            deathtoms: "what do you want to say: when i take "stallman approved" distro it's called GNU/linux and when i install flash on it it's called linux than?"

            The distro that you have on your system is no longer fully free, but it's still GNU/Linux.

            P.S. Android, along with it's many AOSP derivations, is not GNU/Linux.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • more hallucinations...

            ...it's called linux.

            today, modern linux is made of many parts, including kernel, gnu utils, x server, kde (unless you are gnome fan, which is beyond me), and many many other things.

            to push gnu into name just because it contributed with some command line software, it's just ridiculous. i don't even need them anymore, because KDE has it all.