Penguin Prophecies

Professor Perlow prognosticates. Gaze into his crystal ball. It gets 170 channels.

It’s that time of year — the time when every IT pundit worth his or her salt is required to publish a New Year’s list of predictions or resolutions. So, being Linux Magazine’s equivalent of Professor Marvel (from the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz), who has a talent for seeing the patently obvious, I’m here to take my shot. (Some of this stuff may seem like wishful thinking, but I like to think that my monthly missives resonate with those of you who have influence on trends and the progress of Open Source and can actually turn vision into reality.)

Ah, here it is, the crystal ball, made of the same, genuine, magic, authentic crystal used by the Priests of the Penguin during the days of the Labs of Bell, in which Ritchie first saw the approach of Kerrigan, Thompson, and Mcllroy, and so on and so on. Now, you’d better close your eyes, to be better in tune with the infinite. Yes. I see the clouds and the sky opening up.

Early in the year, I see the Fruit Worshippers of Cupertino releasing the much anticipated iPhone to try to conquer the emerging digital convergence market, where the MP3 player, cell phone, and messaging device is combined into one unit. But the arrogant Fruit Worshippers will underestimate the power of Motorola, Nokia, and other manufacturers who will leverage the power of Embedded Linux to create cheaper, better, and more flexible devices.

Likewise, I also see the the first incarnation of Zune doomed to failure, as its highly restrictive digital rights management angers consumers. The great Redmond Giant will have to re-spin it in a more open fashion for others to swallow it, perhaps with a “Shared Source” release of its operating system to allow more creative minds to enhance the device. But who will exploit its wireless networking capabilities to the fullest? Oh, yes, the Linux hackers — the same set that will also see to it that the inexpensive Wii is the next great set-top hacking platform, not the pricey Playstation 3, as we would have believed.

But what of Vista? I see… I see many, many unsold copies piled up at CompUSA and mail-order warehouses all over the nation, as many PC users come to the realization that if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. IT organizations throughout the land will adopt a “wait and see” strategy, fueled by indecisiveness and greatly increased total costs of ownership. Conversely, I see the Microsoft-Novell alliance bearing fruit, and many new SUSE Linux servers will sprout up at companies that once were Microsoft-only shops. “LAMP” applications, along with JBOSS middleware, will become the new lingua franca of application development.

And Java? I see much Java in the future. Once the complete GNU Public License version 3 (GPL3) source code is released for J2EE, there is much re-coding and optimization, and as the example of Netscape begetting Mozilla and Firefox before it, there will be another great Apache open source project where a new, open Java Virtual Machine comes into being. Java will undergo a renaissance, heralding the appearance of more and more Java desktop applications. Java applets on the Web shall return, presenting a true open source alternative to the proprietary Flash.

And there will finally be a completely open source implementation of Solaris to go along with open source Java, licensed with GPL3, not with the CDDL that I predicted would go the way of the dodo only a year or two ago. Who will publish the first complete “OpenSolaris” distribution? Will it be Ubuntu? Blastwave? Nexenta? Or Sun itself, perhaps emulating Red Hat’s Fedora? Maybe Debian will adopt the Solaris kernel and eschew Linux, which is stubbornly staying with GPL2.

But what of Linux on the desktop? Here my vision is becoming blurry. I see Ubuntu and OpenSUSE adoption increasing among the faithful and the technical, but there’s still much to be done until that time when even Auntie Em can boot a Penguin. In the not-so-distant future, perhaps even the mighty Dell will take a desktop Linux baby step with an Ubuntu or SUSE partnership.

But as a prelude to that, in 2007, OpenOffice.org gets even better with the Microsoft/Novell alliance, and Novell will release a solid Evolution for Windows, as well as a Windows version of the Novell build of OpenOffice.org, with improved filters and usability features. The releases cause a ripple, paving the way for Linux desktop use and acclimating end-users with an alternative productivity platform.

My ball is getting cloudy, and I grow tired. Now, run along, and take your little dog with you.

Professor Perlow reads tea leaves, Tarot cards, the stars, and The Sporting Green, and is available to entertain the guests of your next party. Book him via perlow@linux-mag.com.

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