Desktop Linux and Open Source in 2014: Looking Back
Since 2015 is but a day away, I'd like nothing more than to recount the big developments that impacted desktop Linux in 2014. But there aren't actually too many to write about, mostly because the past year has seen Linux and open source move in other directions.
Since 2015 is but a day away, I’d like nothing more than to recount the big developments that impacted desktop Linux in 2014. But there aren’t actually too many to write about, mostly because the past year has seen Linux and open source move in other directions.
Clichéd though they may be, year-in-review pieces about desktop Linux—by which I mean Linux distributions designed for end users working on desktops, PCs and, perhaps, large-form mobile devices—are a tradition here at The VAR Guy (and, before that, at our late, great sister-site, WorksWithU, a blog dedicated to Ubuntu Linux). But at the end of 2014, there’s not much to say about desktop Linux other than that it’s now so mature, and open source momentum so focused on other niches, that the Linux desktop has seen little major action over the past 12 months.
Indeed, perhaps the biggest stories in desktop Linux from 2014 involved things that didn’t (at least yet) happen: Ubuntu Touch, Canonical’s long-awaited operating system for mobile devices, did not ship (although an early 2015 release date seems likely). Relatedly, the UT One tablet, which would have come with Ubuntu preinstalled, was canceled. The exciting changes promised at Fedora, Red Hat‘s community-driven sandbox, in the form of Fedora.next remained mostly only in the planning stages. And I’m still waiting for someone to invent a Linux-based time machine, which would make it a whole lot easier to research the French Revolution, among other things.
But listing the things that were not done for desktop Linux in 2014 is not to say that this has been a bad year for fans of the open source operating system. On the contrary, it’s a reflection of just how little there’s left to improve on desktop Linux. Six years ago, I was excited to recount how 2008 had been such a great year for Ubuntu users because wireless cards finally started working reliably, and it was no longer necessary to hack configuration files to make the monitor work correctly. In 2014, those sorts of problems were a distant memory for most desktop Linux users. If the year was a comparatively boring one for desktop Linux, that’s because desktop Linux is now stable and reliable enough to be boring, which is a great thing.
Of course, much of the energy that the open source community did not expend on desktop Linux over the past year was spent in other ways. Docker, the containerized virtualization and app deployment platform, became ready for primetime. Hadoop, Spark and open source NoSQL databases are predominating in big data. OpenStack is more influential than ever in the cloud. And the foundations were laid for open source and Linux to go big places in cars, MOOCs, network functions virtualization and beyond.
So if there’s little to recap about desktop Linux in 2014, it’s not because it wasn’t an exciting year for the open source community. And 2015 promises to be just as good (even if, admittedly, I am doubtful about the Linux time machine working out).