When Asus brought out the Eee PC in 2007, it had a promise of providing a stripped down laptop with a low cost. That original vision has all but disappeared in many modern netbooks, as the phrase has become ubiquitous with a portable PC with somewhere between 9-12 inches of screen space. It is not surprising to see $500 netbooks now, competing against budget-friendly 15″ notebooks.
Fortunately for businesses in the developing world, IBM, Canonical, and Simmtronics are working to reverse this trend. The new Simmbook provides a very spartan last-generation netbook configuration. You know the drill: Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz, 10″ LCD with 1024×600 resolution, the essentials. More notably, they will run Ubuntu, presumably to save cost and are being paired up with IBMs productivity suite Lotus, pre-installed. They are designed to work with IBM’s cloud solutions and are obviously very work-centric. The most important point, of course, is the price: starting at $190. That is old-school Eee PC cheap.
These are business machines and probably will not be used by many home consumers. Still, it would be nice to see this trend continue back into the general netbook market and keep the netbook from becoming a novelty “toy” computer for those who can afford it.
Via Engadget, image via Simmtronics
The change is more symbolic than anything, but it is a sign that netbooks are starting to get more dedicated attention. This may also be a move by Canonical to contrast the specificity of its products with Microsoft’s. Microsoft offers OEMs a crippled version of Windows 7 in newer netbooks, and if netbook users get the hint that Canonical gives a damn about them, they may be more willing to make the switch.
Netbook Remix is mostly distinguished from ordinary Ubuntu Linux by using a series of categories (Accessories, Games, Internet, Office, etc.) rather than dropdown menus in the interface.
If you just can’t wait, you can get Ubuntu Netbook Remix from Canonical here.
Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth has, interestingly enough, disengaged himself from the ongoing catfight between Linux and Microsoft for just long enough to praise Microsoft’s new OS, Windows 7. However, he couldn’t refrain from taking a few shots at the company, mostly centering on Windows’ price and restrictions on netbooks.
According to Shuttleworth, 7 is “a substantial improvement on the past. Even on netbooks, it’s a credible release.” However, it’s still “proprietary, and a relatively expensive piece of of technology”, too “restrictive” on netbooks” and overall “not worth the price.” Well, that cease fire lasted!
The comments may have been dropped as a way of prepping for tomorrow’s release of Karmic Koala, which brings Ubuntu Linux to version 9.10. Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix is also on the table, with support for 25 netbook models including netbooks by Dell.
One notable addition to Karmic Koala is the Ubuntu One product, supplying 2 GB of online storage free to all Ubuntu users. For an extra $10 a month, you can get 50 GB of cloud storage.
Via The Inquirer.
Netbook users have grown fonder of Linux recently, following the releases of such netbook-specific operating systems as Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 and the beta of Moblin 2.0. Quick-boot has always been an attraction of Linux, and according to developer Scott James Remnant we’re going to see Linux netbook boot times fall to a mere 10 seconds by Ubuntu 10.04.
At the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Barcelona, Remnant explaine that boot times in Ubuntu 8.10 (65 seconds) dropped to 25 seconds by 9.04. He thinks that by next year’s version 10.04, which is to follow 9.10 (Karmic Koala), the number could be even smaller.
He used the Dell Mini 9 netbook, which comes with Ubuntu pre-installed, to benchmark the OS. Though the Mini 9 was chosen to achieve consistent data, the 10 second goal is in fact for desktop Ubuntu. However, in Remnant’s view, that will allow netbook boot times to be even faster.
“10 [seconds] is a good number, especially for a generic, hardware agnostic, non-stripped down Linux distribution. From that starting point, development teams will be able to customise and tailor Ubuntu for specific hardware—and the OEM team will be able to produce custom Remixes of Ubuntu that boot even faster,” he wrote. “I think it likely that we’ll match Moblin‘s 5 [second] benchmark on similar hardware, with a device-tailored Moblin-based remix of Ubuntu.”
It sounds promising. If Netbook Remix 10.04 could boot a netbook in under 10 seconds, I’d certainly be a convert. Who else is with me?
Linux was the first OS seen on netbooks, but Microsoft took the market with XP. Does Linux have a chance of stealing customers back?
According to one blogger at DigiHub, the answer is no. While early Eee PCs worked with Linux, today’s netbooks have “more grunt than your average desktop did only a few years ago.” Windows 7 works well on netbooks with a 1.6 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM, and Linux is nowhere near as crowd-pleasing.
However, there may be some problems with these simplifications. The aforementioned article mentions that Linux feels “cumbersome” compared to Windows 7, but most Linux users choose the OS because it’s known to be more efficient than Windows. Sure, the new OS has a “learning curve,” but a number of adjustments to Ubuntu Netbook Remix, for example, are making the OS more user-friendly than ever.
Furthermore, any claim that Windows 7 is “the final nail in the coffin for Linux” disregards the unhappy fact that Microsoft plans to cripple Windows 7 for netbook use. The move to defend its profit margins has left Microsoft in a more precarious position, with longtime partners Acer and Intel both signaling their doubt that Windows 7 will see any kind of success.
My final criticism of the DigiHub article is of this assertion:
Here’s the big test. Find a Windows user and give them a netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Remix for a week. Now give them Windows 7 for a week and then see if they want to switch back to Ubuntu. I can assure you the vast majority of people will stick with Windows. Given long enough they might warm to Linux, given the right distro, but they probably don’t want to invest the time.
Simply put, that isn’t true. Chris Kenyon of Canonical noted that “when customers are offered choice on equally well-engineered computers around a third will select Ubuntu over XP.” Two thirds is a lot, but hardly a vast majority.
Regardless, talk is only worth so much – sales numbers talk loudest. Linux is definitely behind, but if Microsoft continues its antics the door may open to Linux dominance.
When Brandon LeBlanc of Microsoft started getting a bit smug about news that 96% of netbooks run Windows, it became almost certain that sparks would fly. We’ve seen big companies throw mud before, most notably NVIDIA about the Ion platform and, of course, during the ongoing battle with Psion for ownership of the netbook trademark.
So it came as no surprise when Chris Kenyon of Canonical rebuked LeBlanc’s assertions about the invalidity of Linux as a netbook platform. His response, while not exactly scathing, certainly shows that he values the high ground and doesn’t think much of Microsoft’s choice of words.
His rebuttal focuses on Ubuntu and other Linux platforms’ “plug and play” ease of use with external technology, the fact that now “Dell, HP, and Toshiba are all shipping Ubuntu,” and research showing that “when customers are offered choice on equally well-engineered computers around a third will select Ubuntu over XP.”
Kenyon wasn’t a perfect white knight, however, being unable to refrain from taking a shot at the fact that Microsoft has taken some losses over XP:
“Of course there is a significant benefit for users who do not select Ubuntu or another Linux distribution. The price of XP crashed last year due to competition. So even if you bought a netbook last year with XP – feel free to smile when you see an Ubuntu PC. It’s amazing what an open market can achieve.”
And who can blame him, anyway? Assertions that Windows 7 will be too expensive for popular use have upped the stakes for Linux to take its share of the market, so all signs are pointing to a marked increase in cattiness between the major manufacturers.
Take a look at Kenyon’s response here, and be sure to let us know what you think.
The UK-based mobile phone chip designer ARM recently announced that it will feature Ubuntu, the open-source Linux operating system, on its upcoming netbooks.
Noting that ARM is known for the long battery life of its mobile phones, analysts believe the joined forces will produce something ideal – efficient, light-weight, cheap netbooks. Increased battery life is enticing for buyers, for whom netbooks’ compatiability with their busy schedules is a main concern.
ARM’s Vice President of Marketing Ian Drew said the aspect of mobile devices that is most quickly growing is “the always-on experience.” Increased battery life will be a necessity in the coming months as the emphasis on this feature continues to grow.
“The release of a full Ubuntu desktop distribution supporting latest ARM technology will enable rapid growth, with internet everywhere, connected ultra portable devices,” Drew continued, emphasizing the positive prospects of the partnership.
The ARMv7 architecture, including ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processor-based systems, are expected to be the aspects utilized by the Ubuntu Desktop OS.
The COO of Canonical, Ubuntu’s commercial sponsor, focused on the varied choices this partnership will give consumers, stating that “[ensuring] that a fully-functional, optimised Ubuntu distribution is available to the ARM ecosystem” will offer “wider choice for consumers looking for the best operating system for their digital lifestyles.”
“This is a natural development for Ubuntu, driven by the demand from manufacturers for an ARM technology-based version.”
It is likely that this partnership will create even more competition with Intel’s Atom, especially given the recent announcement from AMD.
According to Rob Coombs, Director of Mobile Marketing at ARM, the first devices should be seen around the time of the June Computex show next year. We’ll keep an eye out.