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Desktop Linux doing fineJay Lyman, October 7, 2009 @ 4:48 pm ET
Despite some pragmatism and optimism, the overall sentiment on desktop Linux at LinuxCon was, frankly, pretty dismal. The good news is there were not half as many Macs at this event compared to usual tech gatherings. But seriously, there continue to be signs of life and even light in desktop Linux, whatever the hell ‘desktop’ means now.
Even if we look only at the traditional desktop and notebook PC market, I was given renewed optimism for ‘desktop Linux’ last week when Dell rolled out its latest Latitude notebook computers. Sure, the laptops ship with Windows as the primary OS, but they also feature an instant-on Linux option, based on Linux and Firefox browser software, that is booted and run off a separate system-on-chip with ARM processor.
I’ve written before about how big I believe this opportunity is for desktop Linux, and I believe these new computers are another sign that many, if not most PCs, will ship with these instant browsing, media-playing and communicating operating systems as options and on the side. Dell continues to lead the way in changing desktop Linux from a farce to a force, though there is certainly more for it and other manufacturers to do. Still, these growing auxiliary OS options will be almost all Linux, and believe me, when users have the option of instant Linux or wait for Windows, they’ll almost always choose the former. This may even be a place where desktop Linux will effectively compete and perform against Apple.
When users must have Windows for special applications, devices or media that are not supported on Linux, they will only be reminded of the wait, hassle and frustration that a few more seconds can bring. In the meantime, Linux application and driver support continues to broaden out to cover most common tasks and activities.
In short, the quick-boot auxiliary Linux is among the free operating system’s fastest and most direct routes to desktop respectability and market share.
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