Up until recently, Linux and Android have been two separate open source projects with two separate identities. But now with the release of the new version 3.3 of the Linux kernel, the two projects have begun an assimilation into a single entity.
What does this mean for Android and Linux on the desktop?
Android started out life as a fork that Google branched off from the original Linux project. But now, after months of effort, the two tines of the fork are once again ready to be unified.
Since the two projects share the same ancestry it makes sense in many ways for the two projects to unify, but while this move to unify the two codebases will benefit Android, it will be at the detriment of Linux on the desktop.
Tim Bird, a Sony programmer who was closely involved in the merge of Google's Android Linux work with the Linux kernel project, sees these benefits to this assimilation:.
”This makes it easier for developers to do 2 things:
1) use Android features in non-Android systems, and
2) experiment with Android user space with a vanilla [mainline] kernel. The first of these is useful to analyze how the Android-specific features might integrate with or leverage other related features in the kernel.”
Notice how it's all about pushing Android forward and nothing to do with Linux. In fact, it could very well be the final nail in the coffin of Linux on the desktop.
Now don't get me wrong, Linux is great. Brilliant, in fact. You won't find a more flexible, more powerful, more capable operating system out there, especially for the price (free).
Furthermore, Linux is an excellent server platform, and Google has made the kernel work for the Android platform on smartphone and tablets.
However, when it comes to the desktop, Linux has just failed completely to get people fired up. While Apple's Mac OS X has seen strong growth over the past few years, taking a small bite out of Microsoft's dominance, Linux has been stuck at around one percent market share mark for years.
I can understand why Linux is stuck on a one percent market share. On numerous occasions, I've looked at replacing some of my Windows-based systems with Linux, but each time I've hit some brick wall or other and have had to abandon the endeavor – and only after spending countless hours tinkering with the operating system.