Now that the final curtain is about to drop on the year that was 2012, there's no better time to look ahead and try to anticipate what 2013 will bring.
Predictions have been coming fast and furious throughout the tech press for some time already, of course, but not many focus on Linux.
With that in mind, here are some things I think we'll see in the Linux world in this upcoming year.
1. The 'tiny' trend
There's been no end in sight to the excitement over the Raspberry Pi this year, and it's just one in an ever-growing class of tiny, inexpensive, Linux-powered PCs. It's a real revolution in computing, as I've said before, with potentially huge implications for society and the world. I predict this trend is going to continue into 2013 and beyond, as free, open source, and resource-efficient Linux enables ever smaller and cheaper computing options.
2. Increasing ubiquity
One would already be hard-pressed to find a major company or aspect of the technological world that doesn't rely on Linux in some way, but that's clearly going to increase further. Not only are all these new "tiny" devices putting Linux into more consumers' hands--even beyond what it has already achieved through Linux-based Android--but it's also increasingly playing a role in the gaming world, for instance, as well as in cars and beyond. With its small size, flexibility, openness, and low cost, there's virtually no limit on the places and ways it can be used to improve life for everyone.
3. Fully competitive at last
Speaking of ubiquity, I'm not going to predict that 2013 will be the oft-anticipated "Year of Linux on the Desktop," which has questionable relevance at this point anyway, but I do think two key things happened in 2012 that make Linux a more compelling desktop choice for companies and individual users. First: Windows 8 happened. Second: Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular have finally reached a point at which their features truly match--or even surpass--what Windows offers mainstream users. It will take time, to be sure, for many to overcome the inertia that keeps them locked into Microsoft's plan, but I do think things are now looking better for desktop Linux than they ever have before, and that will only continue throughout the upcoming year.
4. Linux preloaded
Whatever your views of Windows' long-term prospects, it seems pretty safe to say that the widespread skepticism currently greeting Windows 8 means that more business and individual users will be seeking out other choices. That, indeed, will drive fresh uptake of alternatives like Ubuntu on the desktop, and it will also fuel the growing number of hardware options sold with Linux preloaded. Dell's new developer-focused "Sputnik" laptop is but one of numerous recent examples, and I have no doubt that trend is going to continue in the upcoming year. More choice is always a good thing for users.
5. Back to basics
Last but not least, one big trend from the past year or so that hasn't fared too well is the imposition of the mobile paradigm onto the desktop. We've seen it in Ubuntu's Unity and GNOME 3 as well as Windows 8's Modern UI, and a lot of users don't like it. I predict--and I fervently hope--that in 2013 software makers are going to better appreciate that what works on one form factor--however wildly popular it may be--isn't necessarily something that can be applied across the board in "one size fits all" fashion. The return by popular demand of GNOME 2 should be a lesson to all operating systems: mobile is mobile, desktop is desktop, and never the twain shall meet. Or something like that. ;)