A slightly belated Happy New Year from everyone at LXF Towers!
So, 2009 eh? What can we expect to see in the Linux community -- and the wider computing world -- over the next 12 months? Without a doubt, 2008 was the Year of the Netbook. Initially dismissed as a fad by tech pundits around the intertubes, netbooks have been a storming success with almost every laptop manufacturer releasing some form of itty-bitty machine. Best of all, a good deal of them are being shipped with some form of Linux variant, guiding new users onto the path of Free Software.
We can expect that to continue in 2009, but I hope we see some consolidation around one or two distros. I know, we all love the freedom that multiple distros offers, and as long-time Linux users we can work out the discrepancies between them. But given that netbooks provide the first exposure that many have to Linux, I believe we'll keep more of these users sailing the Linux boat if we give them something that's well understood, well supported and accessible.
Right now, Joe Shopper grabs a WonderNote 9000 netbook that's running a half-proprietary version of Linux, tailored by the hardware manufacturer. He stumbles across a problem, or wants to install a new program, and goes asking for help on a Linux forum. Suddenly he's befuddled by talk of different package formats, filesystem structures and so forth -- and it may tempt him back to the more familiar world of Windows.
To mitigate this, it'd be good if the netbook manufacturers settled on a couple of distros; Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Fedora have good hardware support for these devices. Once Joe Shopper understands Linux sufficiently well, he can explore the rich world of distros.
On another note, we should keep a firm eye on Android throughout the year. Sure, right now it's limited to the G1 and a couple of unofficial phone ports -- but for many users, even if they don't know about it, Android is their first hands-on experience of Linux.
Over the Christmas hols I travelled to see family with my trusty Eee 701 netbook and my iPhone. Ultimately, I found little need to hook the Eee up to a network, the iPhone proving more than adequate for light browsing and email checking. (I did spend a fair bit of time on the Eee preparing MikeOS 3.1, fact fans!)
Now, in functionality terms, Android is arguably more than a match for Apple's glossy iPhone software. Combine Android with netbooks and pocket-sized MIDs (mobile internet devices) as this article discusses and you have a killer platform for portable computing. It's Linux at heart, it's supported by the mighty Google, and it could unify the OS used on this new generation of gadgets, solving the distro inconsistencies mentioned before.
Interesting times indeed! Of course, something completely unexpected could pop out of a hardware vendor's research lab and deliver Linux to more people than ever thought possible. That's the fascination of the computing industry. Any guesses?
Me, I'm just waiting for Tux Droid to improve sufficiently that I can get it to perform various household chores by shouting, for example:
10 MOVETO FRIDGE 20 COLLECT BEER 30 BRING BEER TO SOFA 40 SLEEP 1800 50 GOTO 10
UPDATE: Looks like Asus is interested in an Eee/Android match-up...