Five Biggest Open Source Developments in 2012
As trite as countdown lists can be, ending the year just wouldn’t feel right without churning out one of my own. In that spirit, I’ve spent a while reflecting upon the most important developments in the open source world in 2012. If you can stomach another one of these essays on the eve of the new year, keep reading for some perspective on the greatest things open source did in 2012, and the path it’s set to take for 2013.
All in all, the last year has been a pretty positive one for the open source channel. It wasn’t quite the Year of the Linux Tablet, as some might have hoped, and the grand aspirations that some channel partners had for netbooks powered by open source software have all but evaporated by this point. Still, the channel witnessed a number of impressive achievements by open source vendors and developers over the last 12 months. Consider in particular:
- The establishment of the OpenStack Foundation, which symbolized the strong growth that open source cloud solutions have enjoyed over the last year, while also providing a basis for continued momentum in this area going into 2013. At this point, the centrality of open source software–including not only the OpenStack cloud infrastructure but related technologies such as the KVM virtualization hypervisor and Hadoop Big Data platform–seems a foregone conclusion.
- Red Hat’s reporting of $1 billion in annual revenue. As the first company almost totally invested in open source technology to reach that milestone, Red Hat has definitively proven to all the doubters that one can make millions, even billions, of dollars using a business model centered around a product that anyone can download for free.
- The growing sales of Ubuntu as a preinstalled operating system on PCs in emerging markets. For Linux fans in the United States and Europe frustrated by the meager selection of Ubuntu-friendly OEMs available to them, Canonical’s success in China, India and other developing regions might provide little reassurance. But it is an indication of the rich opportunities for open source platforms, even on traditional hardware devices, in markets where proprietary solutions are not so deeply entrenched.
- Meanwhile, in the First World, Dell’s Project Sputnik laptop, which represents the first time a major OEM has offered a high-end PC powered by Linux, is a reminder that open source platforms retain their relevance in certain niches of developed markets as well. It remains unclear where Dell will take Project Sputnik in the new year, but conversations with those involved in the initiative suggest that Dell’s relationship with open source–which it rekindled in recent months after a dwindling commitment to selling lower-end Ubuntu-powered PCs and laptops that began in 2007–will reach new heights in 2013.
- The announcement of Netflix support for Linux. Commercially, this would be a much bigger deal if the support came in official form from Netflix rather than from the open source hacker who figured out how to make the Netflix player run using the Wine compatibility layer. But for ordinary Linux users, finally being able to use the popular Netflix service with their platform of choice, after years of waiting and broken promises from Netflix, is a tremendous reprieve. It also won’t hurt Linux vendors, since the list of killer apps unavailable on Linux has now grown one item shorter.
I could go on. There are a lot of other developments worth mentioning, such as the availability of Steam for Linux, the refinement of open source Big Data profiling and analysis tools, and the strides Linux developers have made on smartphones, tablets and TVs. But for my money, the items above are the ones that mattered most in 2012, and that will play key roles in setting up the open source channel for continued growth in 2013.