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.
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.
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.