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Has Linux Reached the End of the Line?

By Katherine Noyes
Dec 2, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Fans of FOSS are already all too accustomed to the many barbs and insults Microsoft tends to sling at any free competitor, but one of the latest was so mystifying as to leave many Linux bloggers scratching their heads.

Has Linux Reached the End of the Line?

To be precise,"Нужно иметь в виду, что Linux не является российской ОС и, кроме того, находится в конце своего жизненного цикла" was the comment from Nikolai Pryanishnikov, president of Microsoft Russia. Translated, it reads, "We must bear in mind that Linux is not a Russian OS and, moreover, is at the end of its life cycle."

Now, those who have been paying attention know that Russia is in the midst of what might be called an on-again, off-again affair with free software, as Glyn Moody notes in a recent blog post on the topic.

But to say Linux is at the end of its life? That was just too much for most bloggers to bear.

'Good OS Dies First'

"The idea that 'Linux is at the end of its life cycle' is rather rich coming from the vendor of a platform that is increasingly losing market share, both at the top and bottom end of the market, while Linux just gets stronger," Moody wrote. "I'd wager that variants of Linux will be around rather longer than Windows."

Slashdot bloggers had similar views.

"I just think it is just the way they see things in Microsoft," wrote Slashdot blogger jgardia, for example. "When an OS is stable and works reliably, then it is at the end of its life cycle (like Windows XP)."

Similarly: "In Soviet Russia, good OS dies first," agreed Stregano.

'Lifecycle ENDS YOU!'

And again: "In Soviet Russia, FUD spreads Microsoft Russian exec," chimed in marcello_dl.

"I think I know why MSSR is depicting Linux as an end of line OS: I hear MS has a beta of an operating system, has been in the works for a loong time (beta 1.0 came shortly after the first Mac)," marcello_dl added. "One of these days it will be good for release. Possibly."

And one more time: "In Soviet Russia, Lifecycle ENDS YOU!" Jeremiah Cornelius wrote.

The conversation devolved from there, so Linux Girl knew it was time to hit the streets of the blogosphere for more insight.

'Still Growing'

"Saying a thing doesn't make it so," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told Linux Girl. "Linux still has legs it hasn't even walked on yet."

The operating system is "still growing in the server space, and Android looks poised to utterly dominate the smartphone landscape," Espinoza explained. "Meanwhile, the desktop computer is on its way out; less and less people need one, and more and more Internet citizens lack one.

"The year of the Linux desktop just may end up being the year the desktop is replaced by tablets and smartphones," Espinoza concluded.

'Still a Kid'

"End of life for GNU/Linux? No way," blogger Robert Pogson agreed. "GNU/Linux is still a kid, with growth-spurts and all. Sometimes the rapid changes are annoying, but GNU/Linux is a child of the world and we will always love it."

On the other hand, "that other OS is standing at the edge of its grave waiting for the coup-de-grace, which could come as early as next year: ARM + GNU/Linux on desktops and notebooks," Pogson added. "Desktops and notebooks could completely change before M$ releases '8'."

Windows 7, meanwhile, "will not run on ARM," he noted. "The world needs small, cheap, efficient computers, and Wintel won't supply them.

"OEMs are squeezed hard by M$ and Intel," Pogson concluded. "There will be a breakthrough next year with OEMs and retailers giving the world what it wants. That change will be too fast for the dinosaur, but GNU/Linux will just make the jump as if nothing had changed."

'The War Is Long Over and MSFT Won'

Linux is at the end of its life cycle in the sense that the old "'Linux year of the desktop' horse needs to be taken out and shot, as the war is long over and MSFT won, same as DirectX won over OpenGL," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet asserted.

It's not the end, however, "in that there are gonna be NEW markets opening up," he added.

"I'd say it depends how quickly Linux can get ahead of the curve," hairyfeet opined. "I do think the future will NOT be the ton of distros we have now but will instead be a small handful of distros designed for specific tasks, like Android and MeeGo."

The question, however, is "whether the mobile space will continue to get more proprietary like we have seen with laptops, or will it embrace more open designs?" hairyfeet added. "If it is the former, the future honestly doesn't look good for Linux because with the fast hardware turnover on mobile, Linux will always be a day late and a version behind."

For that reason, "corporate distros like the Google and Intel offerings will come to dominate, because they are the only ones that can afford to throw the kind of bucks at R&D to get ahead of the curve," hairyfeet concluded.

'Rumors of Tux's Death Are Premature'

Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, who goes by "Tom" on the site, had a different point of view.

"It's not dead, it's pining for the fjords," Hudson began. "Oh, wait -- that's the Kin's next of kin, Windows Phone 7.

"Still, if you work for Microsoft Russia, I guess you have to toe the Party line," she added. "Otherwise, they'll make you trade your iPhone for a WP7."

All joking aside, "the rumors of Tux's death are certainly premature," Hudson asserted. "Linux will be around a lot longer than, say, Steve Ballmer."

'Linux Is Just Getting Started'

Perhaps the best -- and most optimistic -- view of all, however, came from Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

"Linux finally has most of the hardware makers on board with proper drivers and a distro that makes Linux easy to use, with no end in sight to the kernel and usability improvements," Mack pointed out. "I'd say Linux is just getting started."

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