By: Robin Bloor, Chief Research Officer, Bloor Research
Published: 19th July 2005
Copyright Bloor Research © 2005
In January I published a set of technology predictions for 2005. 6 months on, I am reviewing those predictions.
I posted the first part of this mid term review a few days ago. This is the second part, dealing with 3 other trends.
At the beginning of the year, I came to the conclusion that IBM was likely:
"to launch (or encourage the manufacture of) PowerPC based Linux PCs in 2005. Such a move could have an impact on the PC market. IBM wants to establish the PowerPC chip as a desktop option. Its disadvantage is that IBM competitors will prefer to stay with Intel and/or AMD for fear of putting IBM in too powerful a position."
"In 2005 we expect IBM's PowerPC chip to go from strength to strength. It is no accident that it is winning business in new and important markets. This will put pressure on Intel, whose Itanium chip is currently struggling to compete."
The most obvious thing to point to here is Apple's migration to Intel, and the complete non-appearance anywhere of a PC based on the PowerPC chip. I'll discuss Apple's move to Intel in Part 3 of this miniseries of articles, as it involves several other dynamics than chip speed or suitability.
I'm not yet willing to abandon the possibility of a PowerPC based PC, but I now suspect it won't happen this year. When it happens it may come from Lenovo, but it could equally come from Sony, a big investor in IBM's Cell processor, which has a PowerPC core. Also, stories indicate that a Linux port to Cell is not onerous. In February, IBM said that it would invest $100 million over 3 years to promote Linux on the desktop alongside Workplace. (So IBM still believes in the Linux desktop). Add this to the fact that Cell claims to outperform the latest x86 chips by a wide margin and the logic for a Cell based PC is there. However, the product is not.
The second part of the prediction is being borne out, but it's no real surprise. IBM already had a vice-like grip on the games market. Recent announcements from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft only serve to confirm what was already known. Sony is the most interesting of the three vendors as it intends to use Cell in other home entertainment products.
IBM is also doing well with the PowerPC within its own pSeries servers, which are currently gaining market share.
The original article stated:
In 2005, we expect [the Linux Desktop] to gain some traction at the low end of the corporate PC market, with the Novell Linux Desktop being a prime beneficiary. We do not expect to see a dramatic rise in market share. That will take a few more years of evolution. In the meantime, Microsoft will have brought "Longhorn" to market. In our view this will not so much prevent the further growth of the Linux PC as split the PC market between "thin PCs" and more powerful integrated PCs.
One piece of feedback suggested that I was dismissing Linux as thin client only, which is not intended. I simply expect the Linux desktop to gain more traction where the market is for a thin device. Another feedback posting drew attention to the 3rd world market. Well, yes, this is exactly the point and ultimately it is the reason that the Linux desktop will not be stopped—only delayed.
Possibly the most interesting development in this area (earlier this year) is the MIT Media Lab research initiative (announced by Nicholas Negraponte) to develop the $100 laptop. Follow this link for greater detail, but the idea is to wire the world wirelessly at a price that the 3rd World can afford using a grab bag of Open Source, mesh networks, Skype and a purpose designed laptop.
This is exactly the kind of initiative that could reshape the whole PC industry – and, change the world to boot. It won't take off this year, but it won't be too long before something like this does.
Again from my original predictions:
"The successful growth of Open Source in any market puts price pressure on the dominant proprietary vendors and we expect this pressure to show in the database market in the coming year with customers adopting Open Source database products for some applications and using this as a lever to negotiate the price of Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server downwards."
Because of the usual difficulty in counting Open Source usage, it isn't easy to say how big a piece of the database market Open Source has. Straws in the wind indicate that it is growing and that nowadays many in-house developers use an Open Source database as a matter of course. ISVs I talk to are moving to Open Source databases for obvious reasons.
Evans Data Corporation published a survey in late January which gave the following "market share" rankings among Open Source databases: MySQL - 53%, Firebird - 52%, PostgresSQL - 15%, Berkeley DB - 4%, GNU SQL - 3%, SAP DB - 1%, Other - 6%. I guess the surprise here was Firebird. The survey was probably done too late to assess the impact of Open Sourcing Ingres.
In May, yet another Open Source database hit the market—EnterpriseDB. This is targeted directly at the Oracle market and backed by a good deal of venture funding. It is based on PostgreSQL, with additions that will accommodate PL/SQL logic.
We can continue to expect Open Source database use to grow and eventually dominate. Right now we are seeing very little migration of applications from Oracle or any other product, except in the ISV market where there is obvious attraction for the ISV to migrate (Firebird, MySQL and PostgreSQL all do well). However, we are aware of some Oracle migrations that are planned.
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