Netbooks, MIDs, whatever – it’s about lower cost Linux

Mobile Internet devices (MIDs) have been the focus of much work and talk from chip giant Intel, which says its Atom processor will fit nicely into these smaller devices. In a recent interview with the AP, Intel chief Paul Otellini says MIDs favor Linux. I’ve written previously about the opportunities for Linux in the growing device category ranging from these MIDs to ‘subnotebooks,’ ‘UMPCs’ ‘netbooks’ or whatever other name we analysts come up with next week. No one can be sure what form factor (or name) would best carry Linux to a significant portion of the mainstream PC market, but I agree whole-heartedly with Otellini’s view that the driver here is cost. Linux is serving not only as the OS for end users, but it is increasingly the choice and focus of OEMs and ISVs. Consider Linux player Wind River’s recent partnership with Intel to produce a Moblin-based Linux specifically for Intel’s Atom and MIDs.

Our ongoing research here at 451 continues to indicate that cost is the main driver for free and open source software in the enterprise. Otellini points out that much of the attraction of the MID and netbook categories is, similarly, cost. The Intel CEO describes a zest among consumers of these new devices that he has not seen in a long time. With devices such as the Asus EeePC, Everex CloudBook, new Acer Apire One available for $400-$500, it’s clear that cost is a big motivator for consumers, too. Some see this market limited to niche, pointing out these manufacturers and limited features will not win out over larger PC vendors and greater functionality. However, we see others getting into the game, including Dell, which already supports Linux on some notebook PCs, and HP, which recently rolled out a Linux-based 2133 Mini Note UMPC for education. The use of these netbooks in a thin-client desktop deployment — increasingly the case in educational and enterprise settings — also highlights how the limited functionality may be mitigated by new desktop paradigms, particularly considering virtualization.

Sure, mainstream cusomers will still have a choice of WindowsXP, and perhaps it will be offered to consumers at the same or lower cost to the more-established Linux. However, since manufacturers are able to spend more elsewhere, such as greater memory in the Linux version, it has a technical and economic edge in the development and end user aspects of these devices. The benefits of Linux apply not only to the end users, but also to manufacturers, as Intel’s Otellini attests. Given its continued momentum, you can see how the open source OS would play a prominent role in what Otellini describes as ‘the evolution of the handset,’ which he sees centered on Linux.

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#1 Stomfi on 06.08.08 at 9:40 pm

MIDs are less easy to steal than mobile phones or laptops, easies to use in restricted spaces like aircraft seats, easier to use than mobile phones for older people where 20-20 vision and dexterity are required, and with a Linux OS, and awesome for teens and kids who need to be different from the older generation.

Initiatives like the XO and XO2 will drive the price down to the $100 mark, so that service providers will offer them free for a monthly connection plan, and others will provide pre-paid schemes.

Accessories will large screen, mouse and keyboard connection. USB provides removable storage, and Web2 provides online applications and storage.

Mark these words, MIDs are going to be the next best must have Internet and computing device.

The Windows desktop has never been under a greater threat. Their OS is so bloated it cannot run fully on the hardware. Win7 is supposed to be modular, but the market will be saturated with Linux before they are ready, and catch up is not a game they are any good at. Like the Ferrari F1 driver Massa, they only win if they are leading right from the start.

#2 lordshipmayhem on 06.09.08 at 7:38 am

Mainstream users will not have a choice of XP for long – Microsoft is desperate to EOL it, and move everyone over to Vista. The home version has been extended past the end of this month, but the “professional” version is still going to unavailable except from rebel OEL’s after June 30. These MIDs, UMPC’s and whatnot really aren’t intended as XP platforms anyway, their resources being OK for a tweaked Linux but not for XP.

Win7 is still vaporware, with the latest marketspeak from Microsoft being it will be “like Vista, only moreso!”, and no word anymore of modularity. They are trying to encourage business users to migrate first to Vista and then to Win7, as migrating from XP and earlier directly to Win7 will be “too hard”. (In that event, why not migrate to Linux and get it over with?) I suspect we’re seeing the last few years of M$’s market dominance, and with it, the demise of shrinkwrapped proprietary software.

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