Sunday, February 03, 2008

Linux Creeping into Mainstream Computing

The Asus eee PC (below.)


Linux is all over the place. It’s in servers, cell phones, and even the PS3. However, most people don’t use linux for desktop computing. Why? It’s different and it requires some learning. The possibility that someone might have to use the command line is enough to scare most people away. (We do not miss you DOS). It seems like every year- every day?- linux users suggest that it will be ”The Year of Linux” when the computer users of the world come to their collective sense and start using linux. I’m not going to make that claim, but I will make the claim that linux is making some serious inroads and it might not be where you think.

Cheap PCs. Linux runs great on all kinds of hardware and better than XP, Vista, or OS X on old or slow hardware. Couple that with the fact that linux is also free and suddenly there’s reason to think that linux might have a formula for success. Recently many major manufacturers, including Dell, have started selling computers with Linux installed, but I believe the real revolution is taking place in the low-end of the PC market. In comes Everex and ASUS.

Everex is a company that makes ultra-cheap computers. How cheap? How about $200? The Everex TC2502 is a $200 linux computer that you can buy at Walmart. (Yes, I just made a plug for a corporation I deeply loathe). Do they sell? When they were released, they sold out immediately and they continue to sell with a return rate lower than Windows Vista computers. This phenomenon isn’t relegated to the desktop either. The hottest notebook news is not about the Macbook Air. It’s about the ASUS eee PC.

The eee PC is tiny. When I say tiny, it’s about the size of a paperback book. It runs linux and retails for $200-$500. There are no laptops in this ultra-compact market, besides the eee PC, that cost less than $1000. Of course, that will change in two weeks when Everex releases the Everex Cloudbook. For $399, the cloudbook competes head-to-head with the eee PC and that can only be good news for linux. Furthermore, the Cloudbook will be selling at, you guessed it, Walmart. If that’s not mainstream, I don’t know what is.

Is it the year of Linux? Probably not. Yet, it seems like Linux is becoming more mainstream. People are starting to opt out of using expensive proprietary software and rely on free internet-based and open source software for web browsing, email, maps, calendars, documents, social networking, and entertainment. Everex’s distribution of Linux, called gOS, seems to point to exactly that. I’ll be doing a review of gOS in the near future (I’m using the Beta version as I type this) and I hope to take a look at the Cloudbook hands-on after it hits Walmart stores.

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