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Highly anticipated open-source releases coming in '09

These open-source browsers, dev tools, mobile apps and more promise that 'Oooh, cool!' sense of discovery.
The inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama was broadcast via Silverlight, yet more than 50,000 viewers watched it using Moonlight on Linux.

The inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama was broadcast via Silverlight, yet more than 50,000 viewers watched it using Moonlight on Linux.

When big companies release new software, they launch it with lots of hoopla: press tours, technical conferences, free T-shirts. Open-source projects, even the well-known ones, generally release their major new versions with a lot less fanfare. The FOSS (free and open-source software) community is often too busy coding and testing to bother with marketing, even when the new "point release" of the software is really remarkable.

And there are plenty of remarkable open-source applications on the way this year. Quite a few projects are quietly (or not so quietly) working on major releases or significant upgrades that they aim to make available sometime during 2009. I've rounded up 25 of the most notable here.

There are browsers and operating systems, mobile platforms, development tools, productivity applications, IT administration tools, collaboration software and a few hard-to-classify items. Some of these you've heard of; others may be relatively obscure but should give you the wriggly "Oooh, cool!" sense of discovery.

You're sure to feel that one or two really important upcoming releases are missing. ( You try paring the list down to a couple dozen candidates!) But the FOSS community spirit can serve here too. Please add your nominations for can't-miss open-source releases of 2009 to the article comments, including links to the project sites, and we'll all benefit.

Browsers and operating systems

Ten years ago, who'd have thought there could still be so much innovation in Web browsers in 2009? Microsoft Corp. may intend to keep up the pace with Internet Explorer 8, but the FOSS options are at least as compelling.

Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox 3.5 promises a native parser for JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a data exchange format frequently used in Web apps, and several features to enhance rich media Web content, including support for the HTML 5 video element and the Ogg Vorbis and Theora open audio and video codecs.

And then there's whatever Google Inc. is planning for its Chrome browser, based on the open-source WebKit engine. The company is playing it close to the vest, but we do know Mac and Linux versions of the browser are in development.

Linux fans have much to look forward to, too. Following the release of Ubuntu 9.04, the "Jaunty Jackalope," in April, the Ubuntu team is planning for Ubuntu 9.10, the "Karmic Koala," to see the light of day in October 2009. Among the promised new features are integration with the Amazon EC2 APIs, so users can set up their own cloud using entirely open tools, and a kernel mode setting for a smooth and flicker-free start-up. The Ubuntu Netbook Edition will get the latest technology from the mobile Internet project Moblin, including better screen support.

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