If you were to ask the average person about Linux, it’s likely you would get either a blank stare or a reply about an operating system that a bunch of anti-Microsoft geeks like to use. Both responses are unfortunate misconceptions. Linux has never been more in the mainstream than it is today, and it plays a very important role in advanced computing technology.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of the future will be dominated not by human users, but by billions of inanimate objects, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Cisco has predicted for a long time that about 50 billion objects will be connected by 2020.
Although skeptics feel such a prediction is overly optimistic, even their predictions expect the number of connected devices by 2020 to be in the tens of billions. Ericsson puts the number at 26 billion; Gartner Research places it at 20 billion.
So even if Cisco’s prediction of 50 billion devices doesn’t happen by 2020, it’s still hard to imagine that the number of connected devices would not reach that level eventually. Grand View Research predicted in 2014 that the global embedded systems market will reach $214 billion by 2020, and be a major contributing factor in future IoT growth. These systems will include computer module boards, and many of these boards will run on Linux.
Open Source Has Taken over the Software Industry
ZDNet recently declared that Linux has won the so-called ‘software wars‘ defeating tech giants like Microsoft in the process. The Redmond-based software company was well known in the past for developing proprietary software, but recently Microsoft has opened up its involvement in Linux.
In the enterprise software market, the move to Linux is evident in how Microsoft has updated its Azure cloud platform. Azure is now available in a version compatible with Debian GNU/Linux. The Azure Cloud Switch OS was updated in September of 2015 to be compatible with Ubuntu, another Debian version of Linux.
Windows 10 will be the last desktop version of the operating system that once gave Microsoft dominance in the PC software market. After that, Windows will be offered on a subscription basis and run from the cloud, but this will not be a Microsoft-exclusive cloud. Internally, Windows will be virtualized within software containers running on Ubuntu.
The Consumer Market
Consumers won’t be impacted by the post-Windows 10 versions of the operating system right away, but that doesn’t matter.
All anyone needs to see to witness the extent of Linux in consumer products is to look at the smartphone market. This is a market that is dominated by the Android operating system, which is based on the Linux kernel. According to IDC, Android accounted for 82 percent of the 341.5 million smartphones that shipped globally in the second quarter of 2015.
Win-Win for Vendors and Consumers
The biggest benefit of Linux’s success for both software vendors and consumers is that it encourages innovation. Whether its operating systems, compilers or any software for that matter, making it open source allows developers to locate potential bugs and inefficiencies. Software developers are pushed to make better applications and consumers benefit as a result.
These revisions can be subject to what amounts to peer reviews by other developers to ensure that revisions won’t destabilize the software. Software vendors won’t be able to live as much in their own little world, safe from scrutiny.
In the software development world, those who write code are discouraged from ‘reinventing the wheel’. Once an accepted solution is available, that solution effectively becomes commoditized and attempts to build a better solution become a waste of time. This encourages the development community to either move on to other solutions or find ways to leverage existing solutions better.
A good example of this is in word processing software. In the late 1980s, several applications like XyWrite, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word were available. Eventually, Word won out and became the standard. It would have been the height of folly at that point to develop a competing product without a very compelling reason. Word eventually supported a programming environment that opened up automation and introduced ways to leverage the application.
The impact of Linux on advanced computing is already considerable and it’s only going to increase. By virtue of its open nature, the operating system encourages innovation and even leading software vendors are joining in. This can only be a good thing for technology and its consumers.
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