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Another desktop test for LinuxJay Lyman, February 14, 2009 @ 7:11 am ET
I wrote last year about how netbooks represented one of the first times Linux was going head-to-head on a more level desktop playing field against Windows. With word of a recent ‘hybrid,’ pre-installed Windows/Linux computer from Dell, I think we may be seeing a similar situation where Linux is not as handcuffed by the hardware, support and monoculture that was the Windows of old.
Why would a hardware manufacturer such as Dell do this? It actually makes a lot of sense. There is today a need for instant computing — for a PC to boot up and perform basic Internet-connected functions in an instant, the way you turn on and use a calculator. There is still also a need for greater and deeper performance, though I would guess most users will find waiting for boot-up in Windows a daunting proposition once they’re used to the instant on. Furthermore, I know that Linux can handle these greater and deeper performance tasks from experience. I also recognize, however, that it is still, amazingly, a Windows world sometimes with some applications, such as Webinar software or some media software, widely used but still stuck in MS monoculture. It’s sometimes convenient to have the option of Windows around, I’ll admit. However, the ease and proliferation of desktop virtualization certainly has the potential to level things out with Linux in this regard, too.
I’m still somewhat concerned about what is going on with netbooks, where we’re actually seeing limited Linux options in the face of demand for the open source OS. However, I honestly don’t know how long people will tolerate using Windows XP, which has actually been retired by its maker at the ripe old age of nearly nine years. In addition, for every version of netbook without Linux, there will likely be versions that include it, for reasons I’ve stated previously. Windows 7 may be a different story, but there is no way it will enjoy the desktop-dominance-from-the-start of any of its Microsoft predecessors.
I’m also encouraged, as well, to see Dell offering this hybrid line of computer that put Windows and Linux side by side with capable hardware support for both. Don’t think it means much for Linux to be a quick-boot option? Check out some of Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin’s thoughts, which I think help put this potential in perspective.
I think we can expect to see more of these pre-installed, dual-boot devices — similar to what is being offered from Dell, which has already led the way on desktop Linux. That’s a good thing and an opportunity, but also a true test for desktop Linux and its potential.
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