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Forking Inevitable?

© September 2007 Anthony Lawrence


An InfoWorld.com blog suggested forking Linux into Desktop and Server versions and of course stirred controversy at Slashdot.

I'm presently on the side of those who are saying this would be a stupid idea, but..

Sooner or later, the realities of hardware will separate the computers that interface with humans from the computers that do not. It's already started down that path: what we now call "mobile computing" will eventually become the only "desktop" computing that exists at all.

At some point, the human interface device you use at home will be the same device you use at work - after all, it will contain (or have access to) everything you know or need to know, and will be capable of accessing any other resource anywhere in the virtual world, so why on earth would your employer need to provide anything different for you to use at work? No, the computer you carry with you all the time (the do it all cell phone, email, web browser etc. thing) will do just fine. But it won't be anything like the other computers sitting on racks in their air-conditioned havens.

No, what you and I will carry will have really become a super-terminal: not a "smart" terminal, but more like a "genius" terminal. Of course it will have computer capability, and will be able to do many things all by itself, but most of its function will be to connect to bigger computers. Apple's iPhone and similar Linux powered devices are crude prototypes of what these will be, but you can see what they will grow to.

Somewhere in there, the interface computers and the work computers become so different that a common operating system makes no sense whatsover. No, we are not there yet, but we will be, and Linux will either fork or will disappear from the "desktop" entirely. So will Mac OS "X" (replace "X" with some number) and Windows "whatever" - who wins, who loses is certainly beyond my knowing, and it's certainly possible that all the current players survive in both markets, but I think a shakeout is more likely. Maybe Linux owns the back room computers, Apple owns the human interface space and Microsoft.. well, who cares? Maybe they go back to being a software house, or maybe they fade into history. I honestly can't see them winning in the other two spaces, mostly because they'll undoubtedly try too hard to do that and will be the very last to realize that they need to fork or specialize.

Linux, Mac, front room, back room: as long as I can do what I need to do and can programatically control my virtual world, I'm not sure I care who wins, or who forks whom.

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of High Sierra

Sierra: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of Numbers

Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of OS X Server

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