This month marks the 20th birthday of Linux. Recently, Jim Zemlin, director of the Linux Foundation acknowledged the 20 years since Linus Torvalds began development of the Linux kernel. Jim also made a few other statements that were interesting. He stated “I think we just don’t care that much [about Microsoft] anymore. They used to be our big rival, but now it’s kind of like kicking a puppy.”. He also went on to say “Linux has come to dominate almost every category of computing, with the exception of the desktop”.
I'm not sure if I agree that Linux dominates every category of computing, but it definitely has a presence in every category of computing. The main category that Linux dominates is still with supercomputing, and I suspect it will indefinitely. Linux often doesn't get credit either because it's working behind the scenes and many people only see the outside of the box. For instance, recently on the Jeopardy game show, Linux ran "Watson", the computer contenstant that millions of viewers saw compete and win on the game show.
The desktop market has definitely been challenging. Linux saw a spike in growth around the time that Windows Vista was released, but it has flat-lined since. Global market share on the desktop continues to hover anywhere from 1-5%, depending on which sources you use. But, as the desktop PC becomes more irrelevant, it will be interesting to see how these trends move ahead. I don't think the desktop PC is going anywhere for a long time though, despite the trends for cloud computing.
So where are we headed? I suspect Linux will continue to grow in all areas of computing. Why? Because it is a rock solid platform that has proven itself over and over for 20 years. And, one of the largest benefits of it is that it is open source. And this is a winning solution in a lot of areas because vendors can customize the Linux kernel to fit their hardware application. And, since open source is not controlled by one entity and is free to the public to download, study, customize, and apply, it reduces cost to the vendor and the customer. I am sure we will see Linux to continue to grow and slowly chip away at market share in many areas, especially phone and tablet platforms. Microsoft is behind the game and Google has leveraged Linux as a solid platform for its Android operating system on mobile devices which is the hot area. I've found that Linux (Fedora distribution) has provided a very user friendly, safe, and reliable platform for desktops. I use it solely for friends and relatives to replace Windows after it becomes hosed over time.
Linux is everywhere, it is running routers, switches, firewalls, phones, even household DVR players. It generally runs in the background, sometimes never to be seen or recognised. Linux isn't marketed to the public which is why you don't hear about it all of the time. It doesn't need a shiny interface to try and appeal to users and sell more copies. It does what it is supposed to do, and it does it well. So the next device that you power up, consider what OS it is running.