Because Linux is open-source, it allows programmers around the world to take the original code and do new things with it. News.com had a story this morning about the latest innovations in the Linux front - BabelDisc. BabelDisc is an Ubuntu-based distribution which is designed to run on Windows computers directly from the CD-ROM. There's also a USB bootable version of BabelDisc.
Now, this isn't a major innovation. Distributions have been available in Live-CD versions for a while now. Windows users can simply put the Linux Live-CD in their machine, reboot it, configure it to boot from the CD, and away they go.
What makes BabelDisc different is that it includes a set of pre-configured applications so you don't need to install anything to get some use out of the system. BabelDisc also offers centralized storage on what they call the BabelBank. The BabelBank is stored in BabelComputer Centres which are located around the world.
One of the advantages of BabelDisc in concert with the BabelBanks is that BabelDisc users can access their data anywhere in the world from any computer. Just insert the CD or USB drive, reboot the machine, enter a password and *Poof* - a familiar desktop with all of the needed data and applications.
From that aspect, it seems like BabelDisc may be a nice step forward. It brings flexibility and security to mobile users.
There are a couple of drawbacks however. First, the service isn't free. You can download the operating system for free, but in order to use it, you must pay a £20 fee to register. On top of that, there's a £1 per month service charge for 2 GB of storage. This limited storage is the second drawback.
The third drawback I see is the fact that you're limited to computers with broadband Internet access. If you're at Grandma's house who only has dial-up, you can't easily access the data like you could with a traditional laptop.
This is the biggest stumbling block and the biggest step backward that I can see. It's along the same lines as the limitations inherent with thin clients. Freedom and flexibility. It harkens back to the old dumb terminal days where you could only be productive if you were tied to the central mainframe.
BabelDisc is an interesting concept, but I'm not sure it will be much more successful than the Tower of the same name.