Laptops, mobilily and simplicity
A little while ago, I decided that I would never, ever have a desk ever again. If my cat managed to change her favourite spot several times a day, what was tying me to a desk?
I bought a laptop, and after a week I promised I would never, ever buy anything but a laptop and would change my working area in my house.
So far, 7 years later, the plan seems to have worked, and I don't even need a long network cable lying around anymore.
From our latest poll, it's clear that I am not alone. About 30% of our readers have Linux on their laptops. While I can't assume that their Linux laptops are their main machine, but I'm sure they are an important part of their computing life.
I frankly believe that within the next 10 years (OK, it is a long shot) the concept of "desktop machine" won't even exist anymore. Sales will decline more and more, until the desktop market will become a small niche.
People will definitely have external keyboard, mice and LCD screen (or maybe a small projector). And desktop machines won't disappear completely - they will still exist for CPU-intensive applications like rendering etc.
Where does this leave Linux?
I think the keys here are "interoperability" and "simplicity".
This is the scenario I am talking about: you go to somebody's house. Turn your computer on. It finds the wireless network, connects to it. Asks for a password. An alert pops out on your friend's screen: somebody tried to connect; allow them? Yes, of course. That computer is then able to browse the home's movie and music archive, share files and documents, use the Internet, and so on.
We already have the technology to do this. In fact, everything I described can indeed happen - but not easily. The router needs to be configured to allow a computer into the network. The file server needs to have a new user. And so on. Maybe, for this to happen we would need a standard-based entertainment system that also acts as access point, file server, and so on. Even if such systems exist today, they are not the "norm".
Proprietary companies such as Microsoft or Apple will try their very best to make sure that there is no easy, standard way to live in a standard, simple IT world. Have you ever tried to connect your iPod to Linux?
Also, keep in mind that my small dream was only an example - the same concepts can be applied to many different scenarios.
Linux is here now. Its relevance in the desktop market will ensure that Linux workstations will be able to inter-operate with the rest of the world- hopefully without any reverse engineering. Linux's relevance in the server world is also crucial, because I am ready to bet that a lot of those home entertainment systems will indeed run on Linux - and will accept any laptop that enters the house, be it Linux, Wondows, Mac, or whichever else.
If Linux hadn't been here, the war would be between big companies trying to establish their monopolies. Luckily, the rules now have changed - and everybody else needs to play by them, or their sales will go down faster than the Titanic.
Eventually, we will all live in a simple, interoperable workd.