Somewhere around a dozen years ago or so I read an article that proclaimed ‘The Year Of Linux.’ Ostensibly, the proclamation was for Linux on the desktop but that was years before the mobile revolution.
Those of us who have the misfortune of being able to remember technology from the 20th century, who date ourselves back to VAX and CP/M systems years before DOS, and long before the Mac, remember the inauspicious start of Linux. Well, guess what. It’s The Year of Linux. It’s also not what you think.
Linux Is (almost) Everywhere
Mac users don’t know much about Linux as it has been more of a side distraction than a threat, despite the price tag of free. For Apple followers, it’s always been Windows vs. the Mac. And more recently, iPhone vs. Android.
While Linux carved out a solid position in the server market, The Year Of Linux On The Desktop, announced every year for the past decade or so, has never been about the desktop until now.
Linux is a Unix-like and mostly POSIX-compliant computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open-source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds.
Yes, dear Mac user– whose favorite OS also traces history back to Unix– Linux is a big deal, getting bigger, growing rapidly, and is about to own the desktop (if you define desktop as a cheap notebook).
The heritage of what would become OS X had originated at NeXT, a company founded by Steve Jobs following his departure from Apple in 1985. There, the Unix-like NeXTSTEP operating system was developed, and then launched in 1989. The kernel of NeXTSTEP is based upon the Mach kernel, which was originally developed at Carnegie Mellon University, with additional kernel layers and low-level user space code derived from select parts of BSD.
Linux and OS X share a similar Unix-like heritage with security, stability, and network capability as major components, even though a recent survey shows the Mac with a notable lead among app developers.
So, where is this Linux of which I speak? Linux is Android. Or, rather, Android uses Linux, so that means the open source OS runs on nearly two billion devices worldwide, mostly smartphones. That compares favorably to Apple’s iOS– itself based upon OS X– at more than 1-billion users.
What about the desktop? Remember, desktop devices are so 1999. Today it’s all about notebooks, and about 75-percent of all Macs sold these days are various MacBook models, notebooks all. Chromebooks? Yep. You guessed it. They’re Linux inside, too, and Chromebooks are eating both Microsoft’s and Apple’s lunch in education and elsewhere thanks to the low price of plastic and cheap-assed displays from China. A decent Chromebook can be had for as low as $200 and it’s easy to set up and use, more secure than Windows, and sold in clear plastic blister packs at Walmart checkouts– or, so I heard; I haven’t verified that yet, but you get the idea, right? Cheap is cheap and cheap sells.
Without anyone paying much attention, 2016 could easily be called The Year of Linux, but mostly thanks to Google who doesn’t want anyone to know that Android and Chrome OS are Linux inside. Obfuscation is a modern technology marketing term with legs.