If you are reading this, you are probably using Linux or Unix already. Your Android phone: Linux, your iPhone/iPad: Unix, your Mac: Unix, your router: Linux, the HTML server hosting GeekOut Technologies: Linux. Basically, over the years Linux/Unix has been sneaking into larger market share between mobile devices and the server rooms across every nation on Earth. Next year, there may be even larger adoption given a few recent developments.
Recently Valve Software, the game developer who became a digital publishing behemoth with the creation of Steam, announced that they are developing their own Linux based operating system called SteamOS. This rides on the tailcoats of their release of a Steam client or Linux compatible games earlier this year.
So what does this actually mean for the computing as a whole? Well, gaming is a multi billion dollar industry and one of the last Microsoft strongholds as far as PCs and consoles are concerned. Valve intends to cut Microsoft out of the equation, possibly due in part to the nature of Windows 8 having a competing games store. Is gaming new on Linux? Not really, there are loads of casual games for Linux and if you include games on iOS and Android which are also Linux/Unix based, then the legions of Candy Crush players makes Linux/Unix one of the most popular gaming platforms. Now it is just gaining traction as a core gaming operating system.
Now many have tried to get Linux based gaming distributions off the ground before, but they have always failed because they didn’t have the funding or traction that Valve and Steam have. Nor has any organization before had a respected voice such as Gabe Newell championing the use of Linux in the gaming sphere. There is a real chance that in 2014, we see a migration for home systems to Linux/Unix between the tablets, gaming consoles, and PCs.
Office 365 for Linux
Furthermore, the rumor is that 2014 is the year that Office 365 comes to Linux and iOS. Many organizations are more comfortable using Microsoft Office than open source alternatives like LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org, or Google docs. Having native Microsoft Office applications will be enough to convince many companies to make the transition to Linux for their desktop computing. Given the advantages Office 365 gives: Skydrive, Lync, hosted Sharepoint, and hosted Exchange, Office 365 on Linux will be a great solution for many organizations.
Depending on your organization’s specific needs, it may not be ready for wholesale conversion from Windows to Linux though. Some installable applications may not work; however, cloud applications generally will. For example, Quickbooks won’t work but Quickbooks online won’t give any issues so plan accordingly.
Samba 4 was released this year and allows true active directory style control over desktop clients. This has more significance for larger organizations where fine grain control is needed to keep large numbers of computers standardized and secure. It is also a bigger deal for organizations that are too big for Windows Server Essentials where CALs start to dig significantly into the IT budget. Regardless, it allows for more Linux adoption into the server rooms of organizations during 2014.
In some ways, the last couple of years were setbacks for Linux on the PC largely due to Gnome 3, Unity, and KDE 4 being awkward to use. With the awkwardness being sorted out and more big companies behind it, perhaps this year will be the year companies can make the jump to Linux.
I find all of this pretty exciting because back during my missionary days I had to run entire nonprofit organizations on Linux due to shoestring budgets. They were secure, stable, and did what we needed them to do; however, to rebuild those networks in 2014 and beyond would prove even more capable than ever before.