When I first saw GNU/Linux (the kernel plus the utilities) in 1994, I was amazed. I started using GNU/Linux as a server system, rather than a desktop machine, and I just couldn't stop thinking: "This will only keep better and better. There is no limit. This is simply unstoppable. Everybody will be using this, and only this, by the year 2000". Remember that the year 2000 seemed really quite far off... and that I was being genuinely optimistic.
While I was wrong about timing (it's 2008, and most people are still using Windows, although their number are declining), I was right about one important factor: GNU/Linux (along with free software) really is unstoppable.
And right now, its adoption is skyrocketing.
Rather than looking at the past (which can be rather boring), let's have a look at the present and--even better--the near future.
About the present, Ubuntu Linux is one of the most extraordinary desktop systems anybody could ever come across. It's a complete: comes with a fully functional office suite and every program you might possibly want--and more. It's easy to configure, and it's only getting better at every release. The Linux kernel seems to be reaching the point where no grand revolution is necessary: it does pretty much anything anybody could possibly want (from a toaster system to a supercomputer), and--guess what--it's only getting better at every release. Server-wise, Apache... well, it doesn't even need a mild introduction, since it's "the" web server which runs the Internet. Amazingly, I am only covering the very tip of the iceberg; there are countless announcements (Sun's Java to be released completely, for example) which, although major, are overshadowed by more "glamorous" events.
What about the future? Well, first of all, there is the invasion of Linux mobile devices brewing. It started very timidly with the Nokia N800. Google then entered the mobile war, with much noise and a lot of development power: the result, Android, takes Linux Mobile to the next level. Things are still a little fragmented right now, but it won't be long before Linux's invasion of the mobile market is tangible and avalanche-like. The desktop world is changing as well: I cannot whine anymore every time I buy a laptop, and more and more people are switching--and will switch--to GNU/Linux after losing their battle against spyware and viruses. Even on the server side, GNU/Linux is getting better and has a fantastic company--Red Hat--backing it in the best possible way for those who want, or need, commercial contracts.
The future looks bright, at least for GNU/Linux and free software. Microsoft & Co. realise that at least from a technical point of view it's a lost battle; that's why Bill Gates, who once hated the idea of software patents, suddenly fell in love with them. The technical side is lost, and the new fighting arena is in the legal world. However, even in that respect, it would be simply insane to "make GNU/Linux illegal", because it's being used by too many people and because the main opponent is a convicted monopolist. Plus, software patents are not exactly "thriving" in the legal world.
For one thing I was right back in '94: GNU/Linux and free software are unstoppable, and a new era of computing has finally started. The 80s and 90s will be seen as the modern IT infancy, where "proprietary companies tried their best to grab market share and eventually failed". The IT world is now maturing into something that is based on standards, protocols, networks, free software, new development models, and much more.
So, sit back, and relax. It's going to be good.
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