January 4, 2016

Top Linux Trends of 2015

Tux-1502015 was terrific. Looking back, it was the most fascinating year for Linux and open source. Here are some of the top trends of 2015.

Linux Kind of Dominated CES 2015

At CES last year, we saw the presence of Linux in almost every category of consumer devices. And what’s even more interesting is that companies are using different operating systems, all based on Linux. Diversity. While Samsung showcased their Tizen-powered 4K smart TV, LG brought their webOS running smartwatch; Sony showed their Android-powered Walkman, and Panasonic was there with Firefox OS TV.

Ubuntu Phone Launched

Linux pretty much dominates the smartphone market, thanks to Linux-based Android operating system. But, there are companies like Canonical, Mozilla, and Jolla that are working on bringing more Linux-powered mobile operating systems to the market. 2015 began with Ubuntu phones shipping in select markets.

Gaming Goes Linux

Games have been a pain point for Linux in consumer space, but that changed in 2015. Valve finally started shipping their Steam Machines after long delay. That was not all, however. Nvidia came out with their Nvidia Shield Android TV that doubles as a set-top box and game console.

Linux Foundation Became a “Go To” Organization

2015 also saw many new open source projects, such as Open Container Initiative that became Linux Foundation’s Collaborative project. The Foundation was at the center of other new projects such as the OpenHPC Project. Every time I talk to a company that’s interested in open sourcing their project, they point in one direction -- the Linux Foundation. Recently, Fujitsu open sourced their software and when I asked where they would be hosting it, their answer was...obvious!

Companies Going Open Source

Apple: The most interesting trend of 2015 was that traditional, proprietary software vendors started to embrace open source. The biggest story of the year was Apple open sourcing their programming language Swift. Apple's PR teams, however, made a blunder and, as usual, overused adjectives and called Apple "the first major computer company to make open source a key part of its strategy." They fixed it after the open source community pushed back.

Microsoft: The second big story was from Microsoft camp. Thanks to the change in leadership and market dynamics, the company is embracing  Linux and open source at an unprecedented level. This year, Microsoft open sourced two of their core technologies: .NET and Visual Studio. Boy, they even built their own Linux-based operating system for networking switches on Azure Cloud. And, that’s not all, Microsoft also brought Debian and Red Hat Enterprise Linux to their Azure Cloud.

Automattic: Hold on, there’s more. Automattic, the company behind WordPress blogging software and WordPress.com rebuilt the code for WordPress.com from scratch. And, for the first time they released this code under an open source licence.

AMD: It’s not over yet. AMD, one of the two GPU giants, also went open source in 2015. The company announced a project called GPUOpen initiative. According to Marco Chiappetta of HotHardware, AMD will release a "collection of open source effects, tools, libraries and SDKs that are being made available on GitHub under an MIT open source license."

openSUSE -- SUSE Linux Enterprise Came Closer

Last year, SUSE was bought by Micro Focus as part of the Attachmate acquisition, and the company is already showing growth. Now we are also seeing the much needed proximity between openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise. At SUSECon 2015, the openSUSE community announced openSUSE Leap, a new version of open source distribution that shares its DNA with SLE.

IBM Announced LinuxONE Mainframe

At LinuxCon, IBM announced their mainframe for Linux called LinuxONE. LinuxONE comes in two sizes: LinuxONE Emperor and LinuxONE Rockhopper. Based on the IBM z13, LinuxONE Emperor is the world’s most advanced Linux system with the fastest processor in the industry. Later at SUSECon, IBM announced flexible pricing for LinuxONE, making it affordable for businesses of different sizes.

KDE Plasma Mobile Launched

In 2015, the KDE Community announced the Plasma Mobile project. The phone will be running on top of Kubuntu, which was founded by KDE developer Jonathan Riddell. The project is in early stage of development, but users can already install it on supported Nexus devices. Plasma Mobile is a very important project for the community because almost all other mobile platforms are controlled by some company, whereas this one is driven solely by the community.

Linux Kernel Receives Live Patching

Live patching on Linux systems has been around for a while, most notably though Ksplice, which is an extension of Linux kernel that allows patching the kernel on running systems. But, Oracle acquired the company and dropped support for Red Hat; Oracle used it to lure Red Hat customers into switching to Oracle Linux. That’s when both Red Hat and SUSE started working on their own live patching technologies called Kpatch and kGraft, respectively. Both companies worked together and the two technologies were submitted to be included in the mainline Linux kernel. And, the release of kernel 4.0 this year made live patching part of the kernel itself.

Raspberry Pi Goes $5

The Raspberry Pi Foundation performed a double act: they launched an even more powerful Raspberry Pi 2 and then later announced a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero. Pi Zero is almost half the size of the first generation Pi. Don't let the size fool you, though. Pi Zero is around 40% more powerful than Model A+. 

Some Bad News

However, not everything was good news in 2015. There were some disappointing stories, too. Despite the arrival of Ubuntu Phones, the two other Linux-based mobile OSes -- Firefox OS and Sailfish by Jolla -- faced hardship. Seems like it’s way too difficult to break the iOS/Android dominance. Although Firefox OS gave up and announced discontinuation of the project, Jolla continued to struggle throughout the year. It was a sad year for Mandriva users as the struggling company was finally liquidated

From the security point of view, 2015 was not as bad as 2014. However, there were some incidents, including Ghost and that infamous vulnerability where anyone can compromise a Linux system by hitting the backspace key 28 times. However, there were no reports of any compromised businesses caused by these security holes, which is something you would often see in the case of proprietary technologies.


Overall, the year ended with more good stories than bad. By the end of the year, Linux was stronger than before, and things are going to get even better in 2016.

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