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January 05 2011

Developer Year in Review: Operating Systems

Our year in review concludes (slightly on the wrong side of the new year) with a look at what was up in operating systems. Rather than print a laundry list of who released what new version, let's take a look at some of the news that broke in 2010.

Linux: We're saved ... maybe?

As someone who has 10 shares of SCO framed and displayed in his bathroom, 2010 looked to be a very good year. The Beast from Utah finally exhausted all of its legal options, and cratered into a messy bankruptcy, leaving Novell with clear ownership of the Unix intellectual property that Linux may or may not incorporate. We all rejoiced, assuming that Linux would enjoy a happy existence in the future, unworried by fears of corporate protection rackets trying to intimidate people into paying for the free OS.

Then this fall, Novell announced that it was selling more than 800 of their patents to a consortium that includes Microsoft as a major player. Suddenly, all of the angst about IP attacks against Linux were back on the table, but now with known Linux-hater Microsoft appearing to hold the reins. Will further legal hijinks ensue? Only time will tell.

For Windows, second time's a charm

After the impressive (in the Hindenburg sense) launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft went back to the drawing board. They must have put a better grade of Kool-Aid in the water coolers the second time around, because Windows 7 has experienced a much warmer reception.

Vista never managed to crack the 20 percent adoption mark, even after four years on the market (it peaked just shy of 19 percent). By contrast, Windows 7 is already past the 20 percent mark, after only a little more than a year. XP, however, is still holding on to more than 50 percent of the Windows market. Not bad for a nine-year-old OS that isn't supported by Microsoft anymore.

MacOS gets a new distribution model

2010 brought point releases for Snow Leopard, but Mac-heads will have to wait until 2011 for the next major release, which we now know is called Lion.

Instead, the big news in 2010 was that Apple wants to do for desktop software what the iPhone App Store did for mobile. It remains to be seen if the new Mac App Store will be embraced by major software publishers. On one side of the equation, Apple is going to get a significant cut of the revenue from App Store sales, but on the other side, there's no need to create physical products to sell in retail stores. Add to that the fact that if a company won't sell their software in the App Store, a competitor might, and the App Store model has proven to be an effective way to sell software. Companies will ignore the App Store at the peril of their market share.

The other guys

Solaris: Reports suggest Oracle wants to bring Solaris back into a proprietary model, negating some or all of the work Sun did open sourcing it.

BSD: BSD adoption on desktops continues to be practically nonexistent, and even in the server market, it only accounts for 2.4 percent of servers. By contrast, Linux owns more than 60 percent of the server market, and even Windows has 15 times the installation base. It may be time for BSD to take a long hard look at itself, if it wants to avoid becoming irrelevant.

This concludes our year in review. Please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their full upright and locked positions. Next week, we'll get back to serving up the best of the week's news. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.



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December 22 2010

Developer Year in Review: Programming Languages

Continuing our look at the year in development, let's move on to the exciting land of languages. We'll finish off next week with operating systems.

Java: Strategic asset or red-headed stepchild?

Watching Oracle's machinations around Java can be more than a little confusing. One minute, they're talking about forking it into free and commercial versions, a potential slap in the face to the open source community. Then they refused to let Apache's Harmony project have access to key testing suites to certify the Java alternative. But then Oracle ended the year on their hands and knees begging Apache to stay in the JCP (and failing).

Meanwhile, we saw yet another "that's not really Java" lawsuit. This time Oracle was suing Google over the Android implementation. Evidently, having Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer as dire enemies wasn't good enough for Larry Ellison, so he's trying to add Sergey Brin and Larry Page to his list as well.

On a side note, has anyone noticed how Java basically took over the mobile space? Of the three major smartphone platforms (sorry Windows, you have a ways to go before you make that list again ...), two of them run Java of some sort. If you add in J2ME, which is inside many of the "clamshell" phones, Java is the dominant player in mobile.

It was also a good year for the JVM, as JVM-powered languages such as Closure, Groovy and Scala leveraged the omnipresence of Java to gain traction.

I see your 8 cores, and raise you 8

Functional programming considers to gain in popularity in the years ahead, mainly as programmers try to come to terms with how to leverage all the multi-threaded power available to them in modern hardware. Along with the aforementioned Scala, Erlang and Haskell have also seen commercial deployments increase.

Francesco Cesarini gave a great talk at OSCON on how Erlang can help developers. Unfortunately, there was no transcript, because it had no side effects. (Trust me, the functional programmers in the readership are falling over laughing.)

In other language news ...

Perl: Perl 6 still lags "Duke Nukem Forever" as far as being promised software still awaiting final shipment, but only by three years.

PHP: With Salesforce.com adding PHP to their language arsenal, you can now run PHP on all the major cloud-based platforms (the others being Amazon, Windows and Google.)

Ruby: No new major version of Ruby this year, nor any earth-shattering news, but it continues to be the language that all the cool kids use.

Python: Release 3.2 is on track for a Q1 2011 release. "Python" is also a lousy word to put into a Google News search, unless you enjoy reading about people smuggling snakes through customs and DPW workers making unexpected discoveries in sewers.

That's it for this week. I'll take a look at the year in operating systems in the next edition. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.



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