Open Source

Attention: This is not big news

It has been announced that Ubuntu 11.04 will come pre-installed on three of ASUS's Netbook PCs. To that, Jack responds with a hip-hip-meh. See why Jack is so down on Linux pre-installed on netbooks.

I don't know how much you follow Linux news, but if you do, you have probably had just about enough of Ubuntu 11.04 lately. Most every announcement has been one proclamation or another about Ubuntu Unity. The critics either hate it or love it enough to make it headline fodder for weeks. I've done it. I've flip-flopped on my opinion about the new desktop from Canonical a couple of times (my final opinion is that I'm not a fan).

That desktop, however, is not the topic of this blog. Instead, I want to go on the record to say that the recent announcement of ASUS Pre-installing Ubuntu 11.04 on three of their EeePC machines (1001PXD, 1011PX, and 1015PX) is not big news.

Although the Linux community will stand up against me to say that any time a company sells a piece of hardware with the Linux operating system pre-installed is a win; this "win" just doesn't feel like a win. Why?

We're talking about netbooks. Again.

Netbooks. One of the most useless variations of the laptop ever created. They are too small, under-powered, and nothing more than a stop-gap between standard laptops and tablets. And once again a company is throwing a bone out to the Linux community by pre-installing a distribution and selling them to the public.

Is it just me, or does that seem like a step backwards? While the whole world is embracing fresh tablets with Apple's iOS or Android, Linux is enjoying netbooks. A step backwards.

This, my dear readers, is not big news. In fact, this news is so insignificant, very few will even know about it. Instead, what ASUS needs to do is step up to the plate and create the first-ever Linux-driven tablet (and no, Android does not count as a full-blown Linux tablet).

From what I recall (from Mark Shuttleworth's blog) the whole idea behind migrating to Unity was so that hardware makers could easily support a standard interface on every type of hardware — I would think that to include tablets, laptops, desktops, and servers. But instead, what we are getting is netbooks.

Raise your hand if you use a netbook with any regularity. Yeah, I didn't think so.

Look, I'm about as pro-Linux as anyone. I'm all for open source and getting Linux pre-installed on anything that will help to bring Linux to the masses. Problem is, the netbook is not the hardware to help get Linux out there. I have been yelling this from the top of my gargantuan soapbox for over a year now — what Linux really needs is a killer tablet with a Linux distribution (such as Elive or Bodhi resplendent with Ecomorph) that can make that tablet stand out from the masses. ASUS even has a number of convertible and tablet PCs — why couldn't they concentrate their Linux efforts there? Even shipping ASUS Tablet PCs with Ubuntu 11.04 and Unity would be a huge step forward from the tired netbook hardware.

A Linux tablet. That would be big news.

Linux pre-installed on three netbooks from ASUS? Not big news.

What do you think? Am I overstating this? Am I missing the simplistic beauty that is Linux being sold pre-installed on Netbooks? Share your thoughts on the issue.


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

Editor's Picks