It’s quite amusing to see various pundits
predicting that
2004 will be "the year of Linux"
(including Linus himself, but this
shouldn’t come as a surprise).  Never mind the fact that the past eight
years have all been predicted
as the "year of Linux"
, there are quite a few signs that make me think that
if anything, this year will be the year of Windows.

If Linux ever had a chance, I would evaluate it at two or three years ago. 
But now, in 2004, what do we see?  An increasing loss of market shares for
Sun, the herald of UNIX if there is any still alive these days, casting a grim
shadow on the entire UNIX industry.  Red Hat’s recent withdrawals and
reversal of fortunes are not helping, nor is the inability of the Linux
community to agree on one user interface (I remember making this exact remark to
coworkers in 1995 about Linux, and in1990 about UNIX in general).

It’s quite ironic that the only major user-oriented advance in the UNIX world
has been made by Apple, who single-handedly made UNIX credible for Joe-type
users.  But with their faltering 2% market share of personal desktops, I
can’t see how it really helps the cause that much.

On the flipside, Windows has never been so present.  First of all, the
existing offers (Windows 2000 and XP) are going stronger than ever to a point
where even die-hard Linux fans find it quite acceptable to work on these two
operating systems.

The "next generation" operating systems are still far away (Windows 2003 is
kind of here already and who can tell when Longhorn will actually be ready), but
they promise innovative features that get the developer community drooling (WinFS
and Indigo come to mind).

But if you look past the desktop, Microsoft appears as a more credible player
every day, especially in the mobile space.  Windows cell phones are making
shy but firm entries in our lives and Windows-based PDA’s are increasingly
becoming a force to reckon with.

I have read some articles saying that
2004 will make or
break Linux
.  I am predicting that nothing such will happen. 
Linux will keep the niche place it has had for years now and 99% of computer
users will simply and quietly keep not caring about it.