Linux

Is the cloudbook the future of Linux?

Jack Wallen proposes the road to riches for Linux might very well rest in the clouds.

Linux cloudbook

It's impossible to deny the amazing rise of Chrome OS. The Chromebook has taken the consumer world by storm and is repeatedly the top selling laptop around. This Linux-based platform was the ideal solution at the ideal time. The cloud proved itself not only a viable option but, in many cases, the most optimal option. The puzzle was simple to solve:

Create a cost-effective platform that blended seamlessly with the cloud.

Linux? Are you listening? Now is your chance. All of the pieces are there, you just have grab the golden ring before Microsoft does. The puzzle pieces include:

  • An OS -- we've got that, in spades
  • A cloud-based productivity suite -- we've got that as well (created by Open-Xchange, called OX)

Okay, so it's not really that simple.

One of the main reasons why Chrome OS has succeeded is Google. Google not only has the cash to spend on the development of such a product, it also has the momentum of brand behind it (and the "Google" brand no less). Even without this, Linux could follow in the footsteps of Google and create their own cloud-based OS.

But why?

The answer to that is also simple: Because Linux needs (in one form or another) a major win in the desktop arena. It now has the streed cred (thanks to Android and Chrome OS -- both of which are built on a Linux kernel), so all it needs is to deliver something... anything... to build on the momentum. I think that thing could be a cloud-based platform. These platforms have already proven their worth, and people are buying them up. Since cheap (read "free") has been one of the many calling cards for Linux, it's a perfect fit.

I've installed Linux on a Chromebook (Bodhi Linux on an Acer C720). The marriage of a full-blown Linux distribution and the Chromebook was fantastic. You could hop onto your Google account and work magic -- or to one-up Chrome OS, you could work on the many local apps. That's where a cloud-based Linux device could help solidify both the cloud ecosystem and the Linux platform... the best of both worlds.

To this end, three things need to happen:

  • Canonical needs to re-focus on the desktop (or in this case, a cloud-based iteration)
  • A hardware vendor needs to step up and take a chance on this platform idea
  • Open Xchange needs to work with the distribution to create a seamless experience between the platform and the cloud system

It's a lot to ask, especially on Canonical's end (with them focusing so much effort on the Ubuntu Phone and Mir). But with their goal of convergence, getting Ubuntu Linux cloudbook-ready shouldn't be a problem. As for Open Xchange, I would imagine them welcoming this opportunity. At the moment, the OX App suite is a quality product living its life in obscurity. A Linux-based "cloudbook" (please do not call it a Linbook) could change that. The hardware side of things is simple, because it's already been proved that Linux will run on nearly every one of the available Chromebooks (and it should, since Chrome OS uses the Linux kernel).

I say all of this as an avid Chromebook user. I find the minimal platform a refreshing change that's both incredibly easy to use and efficiently helps me get my work done with minimal distraction. There are times, however, I would love to have a few local apps (like The Gimp, for example). With a Linux cloudbook, this would not only be possible, it would be easy. In fact, you would find plenty of apps that could be installed and run locally (without sucking up too much local storage space).

The cloudbook could very well be the thing that vaults Linux into the hands of the average user, without having to stake its claim on Chrome OS or Android. And with the Linux cloudbook in the hands of users, the door for the Ubuntu Phone will have been opened and ready to walk through. Convergence made possible and easy.

The desktop, the cloudbook, the phone.

Is the cloudbook a path that Linux should follow -- or would the overwhelming shadow of Google keep it neatly tucked away from the average consumer and success? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

17 comments
Pronounce
Pronounce

Wasn't UbuntuOne Linux' best shot at a cloud based solution. Now that Canonical dropped it I think the likelihood of an open source solution is quite slim. 


And yet there is Amazon the only Linux ecosystem able to rival Google's. Will Amazon do something significant that attracts a significant number of users. Well not if it doesn't make them money. And as is so often said, "There is such thing as a free lunch."

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

I am glad that you have found the Chromebooks functional, but as for me, they are complete and utter junk. I do not use any of Google services and I do not intent on ever using Google services. The cloud is a nice concept and not very cost effective for consumers as the ISPs limit the amount of data that you can download in a month. Also with storing all of your stuff online makes it easier for hackers to delete your stuff. I guess those consumers that have purchased those Chromebooks do not use them in public as for fear of being made fun of as I have not seen one in the wild.

teejayuu
teejayuu

Keep going Jack, someday you'll find a place for Linux

mark
mark

NO!

The chromebook is not for me!

I have one and had to install Linux to make it usable and even then I don't care for the way it implements the boot loader.

In addition who actually likes a web app? I loathe webapps. (I tolerate them when I have to) We are all used to the game (but still don't like it), this app only supported in IE, that app in chrome, those apps in Firefox etc. Browsers are a standard I think NOT!

Why would a company take an application and make it run in a browser and then totally get rid of their stand alone app is beyond me. Companies lose control of their APPLICATION development process because their code relies on someone else's NON STANDARD standards (browser framework and/or Java) to present their hard work and livelihood.

I have several apps I use on a day to day basis that require a different browser each of them. In addition when the browser OR Java OR shockwave OR Silverlight (you get the idea) gets updated there is a 50% chance the app will have issues. 

At this time I consider web apps a pain in the butt that I have to use. I will take a fast stable standalone application any day over a poorly implemented cloud app and chromebooks are nothing more than a browser with a built in keyboard!

Jaqui
Jaqui

Sorry, not for me.

not a cloud I don't control.


not when cloud based services are so performance flaky. [ it has taken me 25 minutes to get the LIVEFYRE comment system to recognise I'm logged in, that is what the CLOUD gives me, cr@p ]


and Google, is fighting with Microsoft to keep the UNUSABLE user interface crown from Apple.

tmsbrdrs
tmsbrdrs

There have already been many cloud based Linux distros. Currently, there's peppermint OS. It's a hybrid but it runs quite well and is based on Ubuntu. It already has a productivity suite which lives in the cloud and has hot links for many other cloud based services as well. Before saying there should be such a thing, it's always a good idea to check out if there already is so you can acknowledge it and either accept it or say why it's not enough and why.

lastchip
lastchip

It 'aint going to happen!

Not because it's Linux, but because it's a US based cloud.

The recent ruling demanding Microsoft hand over data from its foreign data centres, signed its (and any other US based cloud service) death warrants. Google, Apple et al, will all suffer the same cold shoulder from anyone outside the US and particularly in Europe. If this isn't a wakeup call to European governments to drop Microsoft like a hot brick, I don't know what is.

I know this post is not (directly) related to your article Jack, but it's so fundamental to any cloud solution, that it drags Linux in, whether we all like it or not.

Your politicians need to wake up and smell the coffee, otherwise your all dead!

Their obsession with security is now hindering doing business with you all and frankly, there's so much innovation coming from outside the US, we don't need to. In fact, trading within Europe (for a European based operation), is a lot simpler than trading with you, as essentially there are no boarder controls, customs paperwork and all the rest of the paraphernalia.

A while back here in the UK, we considered ourselves with the "Empire" to be a world power, within little more than half a century, that all changed. Our politicians cling on to that, but they're in a dream world (nothing new there). It can happen to you too. You might be geographically a lot bigger, but as they say, the bigger you are, the harder you fall.

b1001b
b1001b

Only if I would have the chance to use my own cloud structure (like ownCloud or else) I would use a ...-Cloudbook where ... could be a Linux- oder Android- or even Windows-Operating System. 

But if it would be a Google or iOS / Apple or Windows or Amazon Cloud, I don't want such a hardware/software because I don't want to share my data, my usage, my profile. It is bad enough that the secret agency community like NSA or CIA is spying on everybody of us, so I don't need corporations spying on me as well.

adacosta38
adacosta38

Why are Chromebooks successful right now? Because they are cheap, its not Chrome OS or the Cloud. People use it for accessing Facebook or Twitter, but I am sure when they want a lot more from their computing, they go back to that good old reliable Windows 7 notebook or that new laptop with Windows 8.1. I am sure when Microsoft and its partners brings those cheap $200 Windows 8 notebooks this winter, you will see the difference in purchasing decisions. It will be Netbooks all over again.

Rick Munday
Rick Munday

I think it can be done. Learn the lessons of the Chromebook and improve on it. Keep commercialism out of it (eh hem, HP) and build a better product.

Genefreak
Genefreak

Linux is everywhere already. Does it need a desktop for the masses? It's not like they (the collective community) need to make a profit. Those who value freedom and choice and want to use a flavour of the Linux based desktop already are. The rest - Windows and Mac are enough for them. We can free them - like Neo in The Matrix - one by one. We have time.

ArtyChoked
ArtyChoked

@lastchip Yeah, we here in the US have gotten far too big for our breeches, I'm afraid. Like you, I can visualize IT companies/organizations getting out of here for a lot of reasons, this latest one being the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. 

I have no hope for our politicians, they're all drunk on power and all the perks that go with it. As long as that's true, our decline and fall is as close to certain as I can possibly imagine it.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

@adacosta38 You are overlooking one important point.  People don't like Windows 8 (or 8.1).  The people who can deal with Windows 8 are the same people who can deal with whatever operating system they happen to encounter, and they still tend not to like it well.  If Microsoft wants to drown out Chromebook sales with sales of cheap laptops, then it may be possible for them to do it, but they will have to put something on them that people like better than Windows 8/8.1.

mark
mark

@CFWhitman @adacosta38 

Wrong about win 8.1. if you are comparing Windows 8.1 (Like it or not It is a REAL OS) to a over blown $200 browser with a keyboard you are high or haven't used Chromebook.

I HAD to install Linux on Chromebook just to be able to use it for more than an email and Facebook terminal. My work bought a few and tried to get people to use them but everyone pretty much said the same thing NO. It is not a notebook replacement it is a facebook, ebay and gmail terminal.

After a couple weeks I got ahold of one and use it for an email and surfing appliance (entertainment). I can boot to Linux now but it now posts threatening  message at startup and runs about like my 7 year old Dell 620 with 2 gig RAM.

 I would be pretty mad if I paid for it. (I would have sold it already if it were mine and bought a faster three year old laptop for less $$.)

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

@CFWhitman @adacosta38 Like ...Zorin, Lite, or Mint.  Or they could spin their own distro, and call it "Windows 9", build in Wine, and tout its safety and compatibility.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

@mark @CFWhitman @adacosta38 

Well, I don't use Chrome OS, but I'm not the target audience.  If Chrome OS is selling and being used, then the people who are satisfied with it will not want Windows 8.1 more.  That is, if Chrome OS does what you need to do, it is much easier to become accustomed to than Windows 8.1 is.  So, no, I am not wrong about Windows 8.1.  In fact, I covered your point when I said that some people can handle it, but even they tend not to like it.


I have a Chromebook which I use to run Linux (not Chrome OS).  However, though not a powerhouse I still find it practical thanks to the fact that the battery life is much better than a three year old laptop.  I have plenty of older laptops with acceptable performance available as write-offs from the company I work for, but none of them get 6 hours plus of battery life.

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