Linux PCs: The State of the Market

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Linux and Unix - Monday, November 5th, 2007

Microsoft (and perhaps even Apple and Sun) may not like it. A hundred A-list bloggers may harrumph their discontent with the idea. But Linux, like a kudzu vine, is slowly insinuating itself into the desktop PC market anyway.

First there was the much-blogged “$100 laptop”. The OLPC project keeps plugging along, with a new country every month adopting it. The important thing about this is that kids, unlike adults, are more receptive to a new operating system. They see that after you take into account Windows, Mac, and Linux, a computer is a computer and all desktops and command lines basically work the same. When this new generation comes of age, there is no doubt that a few more Richard Stallmans and Linus Torvalds will emerge. Perhaps even some more Negropontes… or Bill Gates!

But then on top of that, we have the new Dell and Hewlett Packard activity in Linux. Dell has almost “come out of the closet” regarding Linux; they’re actually going ahead with it, and their pages on Linux PCs are now much easier to find. HP, swimming harder to stay in second place, is echoing IBM’s Linux stance – while they may not push a Linux PC out onto the market in force, they certainly make it clear that if you buy their computer to run Linux on, they’re welcoming the business.

But now the biggest sign of the coming Linux era ever: In the United States, in Walmart, the biggest retail chain, there are now Linux PCs selling for $200. That’s about what a mid-line motherboard costs in the states.

The fskin with Linux blog has an interview with the founder of gOS, a Linux system based on Ubuntu which runs not Gnome, but Enlightenment. The gOS is making quite a splash. It arrives at the brilliant solution to the application problem by adopting many online tools from Google and integrating them with the system. The philosophy is “You need a power source and an Internet connection; Firefox will take it from there.”

This is an astoundingly good idea. If I wanted to bring the best of open technology to the masses, I can think of no better strategy than taking the most popular Linux distro, adding the eye-candy of Enlightenment, putting the best open source browser in it, and using it to serve up Google, the company that practically invented Web 2.0. Google has long been friendly with open source – they ought to, as their servers run on Linux boxes – and integration with Firefox has been quite a chunk of their income. And finally, wrapping it all into a small, economical computer. gOS just might prove to be Microsoft’s worst nightmare.

Slashdot recently asked “Is Google the next Microsoft?” Maybe yes, maybe no. But I’ll tell you one thing I have to say on the matter: Bring it on! Go ahead, Google, be the next Microsoft! You have a long way to go before you’d be as bad as they are, and it would be impossible to be worse.

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3 Responses to “Linux PCs: The State of the Market”

  1. Richard Chapman Says:

    I’m just wondering how they get such a graphic intensive desktop like Enlightenment to run smoothly on hardware that only costs $200. Or is it that my “high-end” computer, which was purchased 4 years ago, is now only worth $200 too?

  2. JW Says:

    This is quite an interesting topic. I think it will continue to gain momentum, driven, as you said, by kids instead of adults. Though there are undoubtedly adults who would agree, a $200 computer is hard to beat, it is the younger, poorer contingent of the population that will really drive the sales of these machines up. Further down the road, however, when people realize that Linux and other open source projects like gOS are offering extremely competitive alternatives to the current bipartisan OS domination of Microsoft and Apple, there could very well be a mass movement towards the free operating systems. Part of what will convince people that these open source offerings are the way to go is their ease of use and nearly idiot-proof setup process. Like you said, what better way to bring open source technology to the masses then to spruce up a rock solid (and very popular) linux distribution with some eye-candy and package it with the means to download for free whatever the user might need – it is the ultimate in simplistic computing.

  3. Yvonne Says:

    lovely article, do we forget that google is already being raked over the coals for anti competivness in Europe. Agree with the OLPC idea.. but who is going to support them or keep them to date.. who is going to pay for that.

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