Linux on the desktop is inevitable

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I’ve long believed that Microsoft’s monopoly of desktop computing is doomed. Sadly, it won’t go away tomorrow or the day after but sometime in the future the majority will live in a desktop computing world not dominated by the rapacious lot in Redmond. And you can bet that Microsoft won’t go away without a fight but the writing is on the wall.

It all boils down to one simple fact: Microsoft has had the power to make and break hardware manufacturers for far too long and they’re tired of it. Even Intel has now admitted this. And while it’s only a small step from there to hardware manufacturers realising that they can get out from under the Microsoft yoke and actually make a decent margin on the operating system while also offering lower prices to the channel, the reality is they’re still too locked in to Microsoft’s sliding scale rebate system.

Despite the success of the Linux-based ASUS Eee PC, other vendors are still only dabbling in Linux and have been for some time. For example, HP here in South Africa conducted a little experiment a while back: it released a single laptop model with a choice of three operating systems: Free DOS, Linspire (one of the more expensive versions of Linux) and Windows, at three different price points: R4199, R4499 and R4999.

The down side was the HP N1000 was a crappy low-end model, hardly comparable to my T-series ThinkPad. But the beauty of that offer was that I could I have bought a notebook without having to pay Microsoft for crappy software I would never use – which is exactly what I had to do.

I wrote about the HP experiment and others here back in July 2006. Sadly, my conclusion then still applies today: “PC manufacturers say they cannot fund the marketing efforts so if Linux is going to grow, the investment will have to come from the likes of Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, Linspire, Xandros and possibly even IBM as an agnostic Linux supporter. Is it going to happen? Only time will tell.”

I have a dream (apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr)  that one day we won’t be forced to pay the Microsoft tax.

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Indepth review of the OLPC

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The Register is running an excellent and detailed review of the OLPC project‘s XO laptop. By necessity it’s very long but if you have any interest in the topic is well worth the read. Reviewer Brian Hurley concludes:

“There’s a lot to like about the XO laptop. It’s tough, it’s great as an eBook reader, it has a big (for its category), high resolution screen. It runs silent and cool, has good battery life, and the clean design of the Sugar interface is easy to use.”

But he does note that several areas need work, among them the web browser and the file system as well as multimedia performance and support. Read the full review here.

Intel throws toys; leaves OLPC

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It recently emerged that Intel had decided to join the OLPC. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last very long but then I doubt anybody really expected it to. Charlie Demerjian has posted interesting comment on the whole saga. Definitely worth a read. Some selected excerpts:

“I have used both the Classmate and the OLPC, and from just about every way I view it, the OLPC is a clear winner.”

and

“OLPC is designed from the ground up to suit its purpose. Classmate is a castrated Windows box that barely gets out of its own way in the best of times.”

Making computing affordable

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Much has been written about the need for affordable PCs – particularly among school children in the developing world. Which is why MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte launched his One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project with the goal of producing a $100 computer. Sadly, that price proved unachievable and the machine currently costs just under $200 – which is still remarkably affordable. But just how capable can such a machine be? Could Intel chairman Craig Barrett have had a point when he called the OLPC a $100 gadget? Or were those merely comments designed to promote Intel’s more expensive – and Windows-based – competitor, the Classmate PC?

Ars Technica has an excellent comparative review of the two machines. Even more interesting is the review by nine year-old Rufus Cellan-Jones after his father took one home to the UK from Nigeria. I wouldn’t mind getting my grubby paws on one of these gadgets to see for myself.