Predictions for Free Software

Free Software will develop new income streams.

Free software is free as in speech, and is sometimes free as in beer. I care more about the speech than I do the beer, so making a profit from Free Software can only be a good thing. Google create Picassa (a program to help organise digital photos). It is free as in beer, but they make money by taking a cut from people getting their photos developed online. Free software can do the same thing. And why not, it is very usful to integrate developing photos on-line within our photo applications. The users, the developers and the photo developers all win.

All sounds rosey, until you start to think about who gets the money. Many Free Software applications aren't owed by a company or organisation, they are a loose knit group of indivuals. They say the love for money is the root of all evil, so perhaps these sponership deals will be more harm than good to the Free Software community. Time will tell.

Microsoft is Playing Catch-Up

Ten years ago, in 1997, the linux desktop was playing catch-up in many respects. The user friendlyness was lacking, many tasks couldn't be done using the GUI, and installing GNU/Linux was as hard as installing windows. In 2007, GNU/Linux is the easiest operating system to install, and Microsoft is back in third place. The example which caught my eye was the 3d desktop. Apple Macs are renound for glorious eye candy, and with the release of vista's aero, microsoft are playing catch-up. However, Compiz, the GNU/Linux 3D eye candy desktop beat microsoft to market.

This isn't the first example of Microsoft being in 3rd place. Web browsers are arguably the most important application on the desktop. Internet Explorer used to have a dominant lead in both popularity, and features. However, Opera (encumered software) and then Firefox soon overtook IE, leaving it with the bronze medal. The release of IE7 has brought it closer again, and perhaps even level with the front runnners, but the fact remains, that Microsoft is playing catch-up.

Linux becoming the Best for Hardware Support

The vast majority of desktop PCs run Windows, and so all hardware manufacturers create Windows device drivers for their hardware. Linux is still a small minority, and so hardware manufacturers don't really care about it.

Until recently lots of manufacturers have also refused to release specifications for their hardware, so it has been very difficult for 3rd parties to fill the gap. That's beginning to change, and so device drivers are more easy to write.

Hardware support has historical been a weakness for linux, but it is slowly becoming a strength.

In the windows world, every piece of hardware comes with a driver on a cd, and it is up to the end user to install the software. Under linux, almost all device drivers are free, and there is no need for these driver disks. Instead, all device drivers are included in the operating system, and (optionaly) automatically upgraded (just like all other software on a typical linux distribution). The up shot is that hardware "just works". Plug in a printer, and you can use it immediately - no inserting drive disks, no pop-up windows, nothing - it just works! You can't beat that.

Windows is nowhere near being this user friendly.