When Netbooks (the low-cost notebook computer) first came on the scene back in late 2007, Linux was the darling default netbook Operating System which was suddenly given a new customer and a new lease of life - cheap laptops for everyone, bestowed in part by a cheap operating system. Over time, through various unsubstantiated quotes such as a popular OEM saying that Linux netbooks had higher return rates than Windows based ones this reputation was marred slightly. Todd Finch, Dell's senior product marketing manager stated this month that this was not true, at least for Dell. No more Linux netbooks came back from unhappy customers to Dell HQ than their Microsoft counterparts, a fact that Mr Finch was pleased to say.
Mr Finch is right to be pleased. He can't argue that Linux is a cheaper operating system than Windows, so it improves their bottom line and makes the point of sale price more interesting to their customers.
Always Innovating Touchbook
All of this marketing high-jinks though is just the tip of the iceberg, Linux netbooks going into 2010 are shaping up to be really interesting. For example - have a look at Always Innovating's Touchbook. This snazzy ARM based netbook which has 10-15 hours battery life has a detachable keyboard so you can surf the web with just the screen alone. You can even stick the screen to your fridge (it's magnetised) and let it play your family photos, show your shopping list or family chores. Of course, this is a Linux netbook. The features are just not seen in Windows land. A quick look at the user interface on the Touchbook shows it to be incredibly straight forward - just pop your big fat fingers on the screen at the action you want (Photos, Web Browser, etc) and you're there.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix Version
Ubuntu Netbook Remix is also worthy of a mention. Ubuntu have been quick to realise that the netbook market is one that is vastly different from the desktop market. Ubuntu recently released a special version of Ubuntu specifically for Netbooks, called the Netbook Remix. This version which has a specially designed launcher to quickly launch applications from a simplified menu. You can download the Netbook Remix from Ubuntu's website.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix showing UME Launcher.
Moblin, now at a more production ready 2.0 version is the netbook distribution of sorts specifically designed for Intel Atom processors. I say it is a distribution of sorts, it is fully usable as a distribution on it's own, however the Linux Foundation want to publicise Moblin as a platform, so that developers can take the platform and make their own Moblin based distributions from that basis. With all the assistance that Intel have given the Moblin project, you can rest assured that you will get every last drop of performance out of your Atom based processor by using a Moblin distro. Like the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Moblin has a landing-pad idea called 'MyZone'. This area allows you to launch your favourite applications and quickly perform your most common actions. You can try out Moblin via a Live USB/CD image here if you want to try before you install.
Moblin 2.0 Screenshot
Jolicloud does a very good job of not making a song and dance about being a Linux distribution. Again, a nice quick launch screen is the favoured approach which gives common actions such as Gmail, Facebook and Skype all at a click. The unique point with Jollicloud is it lets you subscribe to other Jollicloud users. You can share information and view each others applications so you can find more apps by searching other Jollicloud users.
Jollicloud is still in Alpha, so whilst you can get it now, you may want to wait a while longer before it is stable for all netbook platforms. You can find out more at Jollicloud's website.
2009 and 2010 - Linux Netbook Revival.
The technology, both at the operating system level, and at the hardware level has been quietly building up over the last two quarters of 2009. It's clear that Microsoft doesn't have a clean simple user interface in comparison to the Linux netbook choices. The hardware, as demonstrated by the likes of the Always Innovating Touchbook make the hardware even more fun, more family oriented. There is a lot of interesting Linux technology on the netbook market right now so watch this space, and watch your back, Microsoft!