Future of open source

Well, this where I get to put on my magician's hat and do my best to predict the future of open source in 2002. Although I have no psychic powers, I figure I have at least a better-than-even chance of beating the supermarket tabloids in foretelling the future.

          Well, this is the column where I get to put on my magician's hat and do my best to predict the future of open source in 2002. Although I have no psychic powers (real or imagined), I figure I have at least a better-than-even chance of beating the supermarket tabloids in foretelling the future.

          * By year's end, Linux on the corporate desktop will be a reality. No, I'm not saying that the Fortune 500 will dump their Windows desktops for Linux, but more and more startups will start with Linux and stay with it as they grow. By year's end, Windows desktops will no longer be a foregone conclusion for young, growing companies.

          * The Apache web server will finally be recognised in the corporate world for what it already is: the de facto standard in web servers. Most of the internet runs on Apache, but the Apache Software Foundation has no army of PR people to trumpet that fact. The shortcomings of Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Server) will help spur Apache's rise, which should also be bolstered by Gartner's recent recommendation to abandon the use of IIS as a corporate web server.

          * Linux will quietly continue its march toward becoming a mainstay in both e-commerce and handheld devices.

          * Linux will begin to firmly entrench itself in the POS (point-of-sale) retail market. There have been a few big-name rollouts in the past, but this year will see the number of Linux-based POS terminals quietly and steadily increase. I, for one, will be thrilled by not having to wait in long lines while store managers reboot their Windows-based cash registers again and again.

          * More Fortune 1000 managers will finally agree with the notion that it is better to use software designed to empower the user than software designed to empower the software vendor. As big wheels grind slowly, this tendency will be revealed gradually over time and without great fanfare.

          * The amount of FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt -- generated in Redmond, Washington, regarding open source will increase in 2002. (Yes, I know this is a bit like a psychic claiming, "There will be an earthquake in China this year," but every soothsayer needs at least one easy pick.) Open source represents Microsoft's only real competition on a mass scale, so the heat will be turned up again, especially if the corporate world wises up and fights the XP-.Net lock-in that Microsoft has in mind for it.

          And here is something I predict will not happen: Unless forced by government agencies, Microsoft will not release Microsoft Office on Linux. Such a move would threaten Microsoft's current lock-in on the desktop. If the government does force a port, I'm not sure I would want to trust my business to what would be produced by Redmond as a result.

          Finally, I predict 2002 will be another year of market growth for open source. What do you think? Log on to the InfoWorld.com forum and tell me and your fellow readers.

          Pavlicek is an independent open-source consultant. Send email to: Russell Pavlicek.

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