2012's Top five Linux stories with one big conclusion

2012 was a very quiet, but very successful year for Linux. How successful? The most popular end-user operating system is now Linux.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
It was a quiet, but very successful year for Linux.

2012 didn't see any single large Linux news story. Instead, we saw many small Linux stories that, when added together, led to Linux becoming the single most important operating system of all. Here's the count-down to the top of the operating system stack.

5) Raspberry Pi is as popular as apple pie

People love their polished hardware devices such as the Apple iPad, but some still love do-it-yourself *DIY) gear and nothing says DIY quite so much as the Raspberry Pi. This Linux-powered credit-card sized computer is as bare-bones as it comes, but it still had over 250,000 people on its buyers waiting list before its launch. Months later it's still insanely popular. 

4) Gaming moves to Linux

People always used to complain about Linux's lack of games. In the next few years they may start complaining about Windows' lack of games. Valve, maker of the popular Steam gaming platform, has announced that since "Windows 8 is a "catastrophe" for PCs, they're moving their games to Linux. Their long-term plan? Make a Linux-powered PC/game device to compete with Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3.

3) Google puts Chromebook and Google Docs up against Windows 8 and MS Office

We used to think that Microsoft would always own the desktop. Then, along came richer Web applications, cloud services, and the dysfunctional Windows 8. Google is taking advantage of all these factors with its partners' ever-cheaper line of Chromebooks and positioning Quickoffice and Google Docs against Microsoft Office. For many people, a Chromebook is all the laptop they need.

Google's goal is to give users a cheaper Linux-based solution to Windows and Office. Getting users off legacy Windows systems wont' be easy. On the other hand, Windows 8 requires users to learn a new way to do the same old things, and Google's offerings let them keep using the good old Windows, Icon, Menu, and Pointer (WIMP) interface.  I foresee users shifting away from desktop Windows to Chromebook and from Microsoft Office to Google Docs as they retire their Windows XP and 7 PCs.

2) Nexus 7: Linux finally gets a top tablet

Many good Linux/Android-powered tablets showed up in 2012, but the best of them all was the Asus/Google Nexus 7. How good was it? While Apple will never admit it, but the only reason we have iPad Minis today is because 7" Android tablets, led by the Nexus 7, forced Apple's to enter the small tablet market.

1) Most popular end-user systems of all: Linux

On top of all these other changes, add in the simple fact that the old PC is no longer the heart of computing and what you end up with is a world where the most popular end-user computing devices aren't running Windows, instead they're running Android.

Oh, and, this isn't a prediction. It's already happened. According to Goldman Sachs, the "consumer compute market (1.07bn devices) is led by Android at 42% share, followed by Apple at 24%, Microsoft at 20% and other vendors at 14%."

It's not just Goldman Sachs, according to Mary Meeker, one of the top analysts around, Apple iOS and Google Android already have 45% of the market to Windows' 35%.

So, without an earth-shattering kaboom, but quietly and in hundreds of millions of smartphones, tablets, and, increasingly PCs, Linux has become the top operating system of all.

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