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Linux to own 20 percent of the mobile market by 2013

Linux is finally set to dominate the mobile market, in large part because of its rising footprint on the server.

Linux has been proclaiming the year of the desktop for years, to no avail. Meanwhile, quietly, insidiously, it has been taking a rising share of the mobile and embedded market. Indeed, ABI Research pegs Linux's share of the mobile market at 20 percent by 2013. Such growth, in part driven by Google's Android stamp of approval and Nokia's Maemo approval, puts a serious crimp on Symbian's and Microsoft's ambitions in mobile.

As ABI research notes,

Linux solutions will be at the center of the drive to bring more content-rich environments to users who currently utilize mid-tier devices. More importantly, it looks increasingly likely that mobile Linux solutions will be an important building block in enabling an application domain that embraces Web-based applications and blended Web/native applications.

Mobile Linux's rise is partly a function of its superior cost proposition, but as ABI implies, it's also partly due to its flexibility and the iPhone's introduction of web-based applications. As on the desktop, the more we move applications to the web, the less necessary it is that we have Windows waiting on the client to receive them.

Over dinner last night, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth and I talked about the industry's (and, indeed, society's) tendency to self-regulate. Microsoft has had its decades of dominance, but at some point technology and those that build it have decided to throw off the manacles that bind us down to old ways of thinking about computing.

I believe we'll see this most poignantly, and in the shortest period of time, in mobile. With the server world transitioning to the power and flexibility of Linux, it's only a matter of time before developers extend that server to the mobile devices that yearn to connect with it. If the operating system serving both is communal property (e.g., Linux), all the better.

Having the server and the client OS powered by one vendor (Microsoft) is stultifying. Having it powered by a community is liberating.