In 2016, 6 of my 8 Linux-y predictions came true (possibly 7, depending on how you look at it). In 2017 I nailed 5 out of 7 predictions. That seems to be about my average – somewhere between 70% and 75% accuracy for predicting what will happen in the Linux world in the year ahead.
With that in mind, here are my predictions for what will happen in the Linux world during 2020.
I've got just 6 of them this year. Going on odds, at least 4 of them will happen.
Prediction #1: Multiple Shipping Linux Phones
Ok, this one isn't so much a prediction as a sure thing. But it's so wonderful and awesome, that I simply wanted to highlight it here.
During 2020 there will be multiple shipping smartphones running a variation on GNU / Linux. Not Android. Real Linux. With real Linux applications running.
We already know that Purism's Librem 5 will be shipping in bulk in 2020 (shipping started in limited quantities not long ago). And Pine64's Pinephone looks to be slated for shipping as 2020 starts.
That's two Linux-powered phones right there. And, if I'm right, we'll have at least one more before 2020 is through.
Prediction #2: Microsoft will buy another Open Source company
Microsoft has already purchased GitHub. In 2020, Microsoft will announce their intention to acquire another high profile Linux or Open Source focused firm.
Microsoft control over the Open Source landscape is (for better or worse) increasing steadily – with the company providing a significant portion of the funding of major Open Source organizations (such as The Linux Foundation, and the Open Source Initiative). News of Microsoft buying a seat on an Open Source board (or buying an Open Source related company outright) seems to come at a pace of at least once per year.
As such… this one seems like a no-brainer.
Which company it will be, remains to be seen. That said, I do have a separate prediction that could solve that riddle…
Prediction #3: Canonical will be purchased by a larger firm
Will Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) be purchased by Microsoft? Hard to say. But one thing seems likely: Someone is going to buy Canonical in 2020.
Over the last few years, Mark Shuttleworth (the space adventurer at the helm of Canonical) has talked about preparing his company for a possible IPO – with Canonical cutting several internal products and initiatives that weren't proving successful from a business perspective. Including, but not limited to: Ubuntu Phone hardware (Edge), Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu for Android, Ubuntu TV, Upstart, Unity, and Mir.
Canonical has opted to focus heavily on Enterprise, Cloud, and Internet of Things customers. Places with significant hype, VC activity, and profitability among other Linux firms.
Who will buy Canonical? That's a good question. With IBM buying Red Hat, I would turn my attention towards a couple companies in the Pacific Northwest of the USA…
Prediction #4: There will be more Linux-related controversy than ever before
Notice how many controversies seemed to pop up, throughout the Linux world, in 2018 and 2019?
2020 will be worse. Much worse.
People will be banned from projects and events in increasing numbers based on political stances and cultural differences. Significant contributors will leave projects (often by force). Entire projects will be forked. There will be public ridicule and shaming of people based on political stances.
It's going to be brutal.
Now, how do we measure something like this in order to judge, at the end of 2020, if my prediction came true? I'm willing to bet that the amount of controversy – the loudness and intensity of the fighting – will be so over the top that there will be no doubt.
We'll survive. But 2020 is gonna be a tough year in that regard.
Prediction #5: openSUSE will have significant problems
This prediction is less… large in scale. It has to do with just one Linux distribution (and the project behind it). But, considering the longevity and historical significance of openSUSE (being the result of one of the earliest Linux distros from the very first Linux-focused company), I feel it's worth looking at.
There are many (and varied) factors that will play into the issues that openSUSE will face in 2020 – dealing with the new CEO of the company that all but controls openSUSE (SUSE), the possibility of future ownership changes of said company (SUSE changes hands quite a lot), noteworthy unhappiness among community members, a lack of interest in their upcoming openSUSE Board election, and building interest in migrating openSUSE into a new foundation of its own (away from SUSE, the company), just to name a few.
Regardless of the catalysts, I believe openSUSE is going to have a rough year. I wouldn't be surprised if, by the end of 2020, the project had a different name, different legal status, and possibly a major hit to user base and contributors.
I hope I'm wrong on this one (I sat on the openSUSE Board some years back and would very much like to see the project flourish)… but, as a wise man once said, “I've got a baaaad feeling about this…".
Prediction #6: Linus Torvalds will retire from Linux
By the end of 2020, Linus Torvalds – the creator of Linux – will retire from his work on the Linux kernel.
At the end of 2018, Linus took some time off during a round of – ahem – let's just say… controversy. During that time, Linus appointed someone (who had been working with him on the kernel for many years) to fill in during his absence.
Linus is now 50 years old with an estimated net worth of $150 Million (according portions of the Internet that track such things).
As the controversies and in-fighting increase throughout 2020… my guess is that Linus will decide it simply isn't worth dealing with. And he'll retire.
Why would he risk damage to his reputation and muddying his legacy by staying in a high profile position at a time when people (in similar positions) are regularly being attacked and forced to resign? See: Richard Stallman resigning from the Free Software Foundation just a few months back.
I could be wrong. I don't know Linus personally, but his place in the history of computing is as secure as it can get. He is (likely) financially in a pretty sweet place. Add to that the fact that he has a replacement groomed and ready… and now seems like a great time to take a bow and make an exit before the inevitable angry mob storms the theater.
If this prediction comes true (and I feel it is highly likely), by the end of 2020 two of the most prominent figures in the Free Software space (Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds) will no longer have regular involvement in the project or organization they created.
Going on my past accuracy rates, at least 4 of those predictions will be right on the money. Which means one thing…
We're all doomed.
(Okay, maybe not “‘doomed”… but it'll be a rocky year. To say the least.)
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