Linux fans have been frustrated by the painfully slow progress of getting their beloved operating system popular on PCs. Why can't Linux pull a Firefox (now at 19% marketshare)?
Linspire's chairman Michael Robertson knows the answer, as reported by Charles Babcock of Information Week:
"Trying to compete with Microsoft on the desktop has been a futile effort. What the last 20 years has shown is that the Microsoft ecosystem goes far beyond Windows" into thousands of drivers for PC devices and applications to run on end-user machines. For Linux to match that may be impossible, he said.
"Linux has to look at new markets," he said.
This explains why the Palm Pilot was so popular, despite not running a Microsoft operating system: the Pilot was a completely different market. (Indeed, Microsoft had a rough time getting its Windows-based Pocket PCs accepted; about the time it did, the Palm/Pocket market tanked in favor of the Treo cellphone-hybrid.)
I've had the same experience: I've been trying Linux on the desktop for nearly a decade now. (I still have the big blue Corel Linux 1.0 Deluxe box in my bookshelf; its copyright date is 1999.) Recently I converted my dad's old Compaq notebook computer to run Ubuntu Linux. But I don't use it. I have no reason to.
Look at new markets, says Mr Robertson: "next-generation devices, including the Asus Eee PC, smartphones, and other mobile devices may yet prove a lucrative end-user market for Linux."
And that's why the Asus Eee works, even though it runs Linux. It does everything a portable device needs to do:
- Runs office software.
- Runs Acrobat Reader.
- Reads (and sometimes writes) file standards, like DOC, XLS, PDF, JPEG, MP3, and so on.
- Runs Firefox and all Web apps, like Google Docs and GMail and Typepad and Internet radio.
- Wireless and wired networking built-in
- Connects to Windows networks and networked printers.
- Has messaging software compatible with most systems, including MSN.
- Plays back music and movies.
- SD card slot as a second "hard drive" (via 16GB SDHC cards) and for reading digital camera photos (for even larger capacity, I hook up a 120GB USB2 portable hard drive.)
- Faster than PCs at launching apps.
Because it isn't a desktop or notebook computer, I don't expect it to act like one. The Eee is the PalmPilot in a new form factor. It doesn't need the Windows Tax to succeed -- Windows software being taxing on both the hardware and the pocketbook.
For a tech geek like me, "the Wow starts now" with the Asus Eee.