Linux

Meet Google Linux

It was only inevitable that Google Android would find its way onto the PC. But what exactly does this mean for Linux? Does it really hold any value or will it be nothing more than a flash in the pan? Jack Wallen certainly thinks it will mean much more than meets the Google Eye.

You knew it was coming. Surely you did. First Google had their "Google Desktop" that mostly went nowhere. Then came Chrome, the browser that threatened to "out cool" any other browser. And then came Android, the operating system for the phone of the future (the one that supposedly could take down the iPhone). Android. An operating system for mobile phones.

...and more.

That's right. The creators of Mobile-Facts.com have managed (in less than four hours and with rusty skills) to compile Android to run on a Netbook. That's not surprising since Android is Linux and Linux can run on everything from a toaster to a PS3. What is surprising is that they discovered Android was actually designed for both phones and for mobile Internet devices (such as Netbooks).

Now remember, Google already has Google Mail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google this and Google that. It is now shy only a platform to run as a full-fledged system.

Ah ha! There you have it. Google has always been really good about sneaking things under the radar. Chrome hit us in the back of the head with little to no warning. And now this. But what does it mean? From my point of view it means this:

  1. Google's Android finds some success with the mobile phone platform.
  2. Android finds its way pre-installed on some netbooks taking advantage of all the Google gears and Google cloud.
  3. Android-based Netbooks allow simple tethering to Android-based phones.
  4. Android finds its way onto the PC desktop giving birth to Google Linux.

But this wouldn't be just any old Linux. This would be Linux with the support of the mighty Google. This would mean support, support, and more support. This would mean Google Linux would be the epitome of mobility and connectivity.

This would mean a big win for Linux. And I believe Google has been planning this all along. And why? Microsoft. This would be a serious coup de gras in the battle between Google and Microsoft. Think about it this way. Everyone knows Google. Not everyone knows Linux. If everyone saw a Netbook running "Google" they would snap it up right away. Why? It's Google! Imagine what you could "google" on a Google computer! You certainly couldn't "google" as much on a Microsoft Netbook as you could a Google Netbook.

Seriously though, it's about branding. Up until this point Linux had no branding. Even though the tech-inclined knew of Linux, the average user doesn't. As much as I hate to admit it, Linux is still far from the taking command of the desktop war. But this could change that. Google Linux could be the deal maker. If the Google operating system comes to fruition the way it could, it would bring to Linux some serious branding cred. A Google operating system could make Linux the easiest to use OS available as well as the slickest: Android uses Chrome which integrates seamlessly with Google docs/gears and does so with the stability and security of Linux. It's a perfect combination.

And with that thought in mind I happily say, let's all Meet Google Linux!

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.

50 comments
scottcarson
scottcarson

If Google Linux (or any Linux distro) would incorporate an idiot proof virtual windows install as a standard feature within their standard Linux installation, then imo many of us disgruntled Windows user would make the move. The current approach of installing Linux and then suffering thru the Linux learning curve to install VMWare or an equivalent is not realistic. And dual boot is worse than no boot... who wants to support two OS's and/or waste time switching between OS's. I've gone down this path more than once and the learning curve is not trivial. Most Windows users expect (and need) a "hands off" installation that simply works once completed [no command line required]. And then once installed, Windows users must be confident that the Linux install will run (at least close to native speed) those limited number of Windows apps that are not available for Linux, eg, brand-specific gps software, hobby specific programs, SketchUp, Photoshop, PICAXE VSM, PICAXE programming editor, etc. which do not have a direct Linux replacement. I for one am hoping Google gets this part right. Otherwise I may be Mac owner next time around.

Jaqui
Jaqui

until they get Chrome to build on Linux. But it isn't a surprise that it might happen, since on the google.com about google pages they openly admit they use a custom built linux on their systems at Google. make an installer, add branding and release, they already have the custom distro.

jlwallen
jlwallen

at least for chromium which is the test shell for Chrome. google is being very tight lipped about the Linux version. i have a feeling it's by design. think about it this way - if they released the linux version (the open source version) they would be releasing the code which could then find its way into Internet Explorer or Safari. Google wouldn't want that. on the other hand they don't want to piss off the Linux community by closing the source of the browser. so it could be a time issue.

Jaqui
Jaqui

is actually because they based chromium on webkit, which won't build on linux even though it started out as khtml.

webwalker_z
webwalker_z

I use and love Linux. I changed around 5 years ago from Windows and I haven't looked back. Here's the problem I see. With Linux gaining ground so will the hackers and virus writers. They'll move from writing junk and crap for Windows to writing it for Linux. Then we'll all be installing virus removers, spyware removers, adware removers,etc, etc, etc for Linux. Just remember I told all of you this. We'd all be better off letting Windows stay on top!!!!!!!

geoff
geoff

"They'll move from writing junk and crap for Windows to writing it for Linux. Then we'll all be installing virus removers, spyware removers, adware removers,etc, etc, etc for Linux" Do you really believe that ? i'm serious, I haven't been using GNU/Linux everyday for as long as your self, but I don't see how me picking up a dodgy bit of malware is going to level my system in the way it would in the Windows world, after all it will only affect my account not the whole system and my /home folders on a separate partition. And isn't everything better built in GNU/Linux anyway so the chances of exploits are less. And the community is so strong an exploit would be repaired in no time at all. And I could go on, but like I said, do you really believe what you wrote as I like to stay informed and what you have put is opposite to everything I have heard about GNU/Linux over the last ten years i've been taking an interest in it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If you get hit, it is probably through social engineering though exploitable bugs in the code exist also. (Windows tends to be more software bugs but very strong in social engineering also.) Once on your system, the bit of code has to become executable. If it comes in through a software flaw then it may be able to do this itself. If social engineering, the user has to make it executable then run it; this is why the standard is to not provide binaries with executable flag set. Once it runs, it can make a mess of anything your user has access to write. It can collect data from anything your user account is allowed to read. A much harder trick is jumping that mallware from your breached user account into a privileged user like root. Again, there are ways but it's not nearly as easy the Windows world is used to. If something gets on your system, then executes, then breaks out of your user account into root; then, your owned. If something gets on your system, then becomes executable but can't break out of your user account; "adduser newname" and your golden. copy stuff from your old user home directory as you can confirm it's not related to the virus. There is no doubt that the number of attempts against Unix like systems will increase as the measurable market share of *nix desktops increases. The difference is in the rate of successful attempts. Also, if the FOSS history of quickly patching flaws continues; nasty stuff will continue to have a very short lifespan on *nix platforms.

FXEF
FXEF

webwalker_z I agree, but don't think we have to worry anytime soon. Just too many hard-headed Windows users for Linux to gain popularity that would warrant virus and spyware writers attention.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't think there would be any torrential downpour of viruses on the poor Unix like OS if they became more popular. I just can't base an anlysis of security and threat on popularity though. Number of attempts is effected by popularity but I'm always assuming everybody out there is trying to get in. Success rate of those attempts is what is important and those success rates are lower even in markets where Windows is not the majority share. Actually, some of the oldest viruses are Unix and Apple based. Apple is now using a Unix like OS so it's gained those advantages and FOSS continues to see bugs as something to be fixed in the program rather than yet another support expense loss for the business.

chris
chris

how dare you ;-P

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

This is good news. Google doesn't seem to be interested in charging consumers for anything and is very popular, so if it offers a high quality OS for free, PC and laptop manufacturers would have to offer their machines without Windows. If Google could cream off, say, 30% of Windows users, then that = 30% Google Linux 1% other Linux 10% Mac 59% Windows (and falling) And having Google developing for Linux would massively increase hardware support, software quality and compatibilty, etc so that even people who don't want to use Android would feel the benefit in their preferred Linux distro. Its a win-win for everyone except Microsoft (and Apple!)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Google doesn't seem to be interested in charging consumers for anything..." So they'll make money by embedding advertisements in this mythical OS, and then charging vendors to update the ads periodically like 'Grand Theft: Auto' and some other games do? I believe I'd rather make an up-front payment and avoid the ads.

chris
chris

open source alternative that suites your needs. that is why I am so sold on Linux (for me, Mandriva with KDE -- Easy there command line guys). I can configure the snot out of it and just get to do what I want to do.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Eventually I think it is inevitable that they'll try and implement the cable model of distribution. That is where they get us to pay for something that is available for free, that still has advertising embedded in it anyhow.

chris
chris

but, with the internet, theoretically, you could avoid ads by finding alternative content. if you insist on their content, you get it the way they want it. see? It's like, if you really like MS Office you'll have to pay for it and live with it. If you don't want or can't to do that, try KOffice, OOorg, Go OO, etc. we have public access stations (mostly crap but non-commercial), and also some online stuff starting (albeit far too slowly for me). I'd love to see some "open source" shows pop-up online.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Advert-free Turner Classic Movies is worth the cable bill to me. It may be the only ad-free channel included as part of 'basic' cable in most of the U.S.

chris
chris

they got greedy (greedier) and did something like make their version not all that open or compatible with everyone else. Greed corrupts...or is it power? With Google, it's likely both.

abbass_951
abbass_951

Well, if google wanted to get into the OS domain, it sure shall make a tremendous effort because Linux is dominated by Mandriva, Ubuntu, and other major Linux producers, so Google got a slight chance to show up.

chris
chris

who has heard of Mandriva (my fav) vs Google? Day 1, Google has 1000 time the name recognition.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Google putting some budget behind a Linux or BSD distribution could have a lot of potential. They have the brand strength to challenge "Windows means 'a computer'" brand recognition of the current market majority share. They have the programming talent and resources to dedicate to such a project. My questions would start with what integration there is between Google's online apps and the desktop/netbook distribution. Will it be limited to using Gmail and Google Apps; possibly with a "use while offline" sync up? If data is stored or backed up to Google's servers, is it done in such a way that the encrypted blob can only be decrypted by my user account or can anyone with server admin rights dig through user's data? I have this same question about S3 online storage; is it stored in cleartext or is it an encrypted virtual drive that only the owner can decrypt?

chris
chris

I wonder if Google want to try being the new dictator or are they just trying to poke the bear a bit. If they produce (get Dell or someone) to make Netbook type machines under their brand they could end up with a lot of market share. Computer sold through every school and mall for 75% the price with "office" preinstalled and all that. But I still think people aren't going to bandwagon like they might assume. Only the vocal minority really hate MS. Most people use it and like it just fine.

Maarek
Maarek

I use Ubuntu and I can install anything I want and load apps through the add/remove program, but who knows. I would think it's open, have Android as the GUI, and allow you to install anything.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Those would be welcome. All Apple software through the App Store would be less welcome. Well, if they can build a simple package GUI interface like synaptec or rpmdrake then sure, go for it. The over-bling-bling app store interface is less appealing to me personally. I can't argue against having a large library of software vetted against the OS by the OS maintainers at all though if the business objectives don't outweigh the end users.

pgit
pgit

I heard a report on NPR last year that some inventors have patented a way to transmit smells over the phone. I kid you not. The device measures airborne chemicals, transmits the 'blend' and the other end releases a small mix of base chemicals to duplicate. Think how 3 colors in an inkjet give you the full palette. Before the story was over my wife and were laughing over the obvious. What will be the very first thing everyone will send along? What will be sent most frequently, probably to the tune of 80% of all smell phone calls? Your "app store" observation would most certainly apply to this one... Mankind is so predictable. (predictably juvenile)

chris
chris

They makes me harken to the idea put forth years ago that kids would become these "tech geniuses" and they aren't. they don't care about computers/web sites/etc, they like texting and online gaming. At least mine do. I still have to help them (12 and 15) with some basic computer tasks. what's up with that?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

and all the cool people will have farts, draining beer, buzing lightsabers and tilt sensative games in there personal tracking devices. Microsoft just released there first iPhone application. Now, how long before Android gets ported?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

So I Googled it, went there, and learned that the #1 app for iPhones is something called 'iFart Mobile'. The rest of the top 10 were all games. I now know all I need to know about the value of iPhone apps.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"This would be Linux with the support of the mighty Google. This would mean support, support, and more support." Maybe I'm mistaken, but I don't regard Google as the gold standard for support. I hate to keep beating a dead penguin, but has anything from Google ever gotten out of beta? Their approach to keeping everything in beta is widely regarded as a ploy to avoid having to provide support. Why would a Google OS be any different?

It Lives!
It Lives!

Not so impressed with their Search Appliance support, and that's an enterprise product with very limited customers (so far). I don't see them doing anything more than outsourcing their 'support' to a 3rd party offshore, and name a company with superior customer service that uses that model for more than 5000+ customers. They don't want to get into the customer support business and truthfully I don't blame them, it's a vast sinkhole for profit, better to brand name proven technology and let others deal with 'support'. the best you'll get is a 'user-support' forum, which most times is probably better anyway.

chris
chris

but I don't think he meant support for you, but rather Google will work on the OS itself (like it works on Gmail, Google Docs). I agree, they'll ignore it if it doesn't catch on like they'd hope, but if it does, they'll spend enough time on it. Gmail works pretty good even if Chrome is crap :-P

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Are we stuck with the "Post a question and cross your fingers" model of support? That doesn't cut it in the business world. Will someone offer third-party support for a fee? Great, another layer of bureaucracy between the user and the developer. Not that Google would be unique in this flawed method... If Google isn't going to provide direct user support, it's just another distro. Even MS has a number I can call, even it the guy on the other end learned English from cereal boxes.

chris
chris

I was just guessing at the clarification. I'm a big Mandriva user and I have never gone to them for "support". I use linuxquestions.org and other forums, so I guess that is what I would expect from them anyway. depends if they let other in (under the hood) or not.

Maarek
Maarek

Chrome is now out of Beta. For one of the newer items, it seem to have moved the fastest.

chris
chris

you'd expect some fan-fare. Hmmm, have you tried it? any good (i.e., better)?

chris
chris

that is why I like FF, I am sold on the FoxMarks functionality. not sure about it's security, but being able to keep bookmarks across platforms is fantastic.

chris
chris

I found Chrome Beta so lacking (and slow actually) that I'm gonna wait and see how the community reacts to it. If it IS actually no longer in Beta, I wonder why no one (i.e., me) didn't hear about it :-P

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

then Chrome might be more useful to me, but I don't use Google for anything except web searching. I had some problems with sites in FF2, notably Bank of America. I haven't found anything that won't load in FF 3, and I clearly remember being unimpressed with the Chrome beta. Maybe I'll take another look at it, but it probably won't be anytime soon.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I've really grown to like Chrome and find it more useful, reliable and feature rich than IE7 or Firefox 3. Very rarely do I find a case where I need to jump into IE to do something I cannot in Chrome - which hasn't been my experience with Firefox. I really enjoy the minimalist interface, the flexibility with tabs and windows, and the tight integration with Google Apps suites. But I've got real mixed emotions about the future of cloud based computing.

pgit
pgit

I got it running enough to evaluate using wine. (in Linux of course) I have version 1.1.2, which also runs IE6.

FXEF
FXEF

I've tried Chrome on Windows, but I need a Linux port.

billgraf
billgraf

It has pop-up blocking and flash support now. I use it almost exclusively these days, but still need IE for occasional websites and tasks like configuring my LinkSys router.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I didn't like it, but it's been a while and I don't recall exactly why. We had a couple of discussions about it here and I participated with my dislikes. If I was motivated I guess I could dig them out. I do recall a complete lack of plug-ins / add-on, including no Flash or ad blocks.

pgit
pgit

At this point I'd have to say chrome sucks. I wouldn't trust a Linux OS from google unless it was 110% open source and free. Otherwise for all I'd know my laptop would be sharing up my documents as part of the cloud.

Maarek
Maarek

There's GNOME, KDE, XFC, and other Distributions out there. Google will just be another on the list. How will this be a favorite for the consumers. Well, since the OS is designed for mobile phones, on a PC, it'll be GREAT for netbooks (as mentioned). We'll have to wait and see. I wonder if there'll be a touch screen dialer for the laptop. Now imagine someone putting it up to their ear as a phone. HA!

shadfurman
shadfurman

is android just another "flavor" of linux? Or Mac OSX? Google linux (if it will ever exist) will prob be more like OSX than like Gnome or KDE which are just pieces of a system, you would have been closer if you'd said Red Hat or Ubuntu (I never remember how to spell that... or pronounce it) but with the interests and funding of Google behind it, it will become more intuitive and possibly garner better driver support.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Google is not out to win a desktop OS war. Google doesn't CARE about a desktop OS war. Google wants to make a desktop OS war irrelevent. Microsoft's recently denied patent application illustrates that Microsoft is preparing for this battle, now. I just ran into this in another thread, and actually missed the opportunity to point this out: Linux Netbooks = Epic Fail. Linux, through the Eee PC, had the early lead and dominance in the netbook segment, and quickly saw that lead evaporate to XP Home, based on *consumer* demand. I was thinking about that a lot. In less than a year, with no real effort from Microsoft, the Linux advantage on netbooks has reversed course. As an example of how this logic works: Windows Mobile (CE) would not be great for Netbooks, otherwise handheld PCs like the HP Journada would have been more successful with consumers. Embedded custom OS platforms with limited feature sets are counter-intuitively *not* ideal for the Netbook platform. Consumers don't want devices that LOOK like tiny computers and run apps LIKE the apps they are used to running on their desktops - they want devices that ARE tiny computers and competently run the SAME apps they run on their desktops. This is why MSI suffered a 4:1 return ratio of Linux based Winds compared to XP units. A new desktop OS that is backed by Google doesn't change this significantly - because it still isn't running native Win32 apps that the *vast* majority of consumers want (at this time). Google is a serious contender for upsetting the balance of power as it exists today, through Chrome and Google Apps. Cloud computing is something that Ray Ozzie wants to see Microsoft achieve. Google and Microsoft see access and applications as metered utilities. In the Microsoft patent application, Microsoft *admits* that the TCO for the end user is likely to go UP in this model over the lifetime of application use. Google has been less clear on their model - indications are that they see an advertiser supported service that may be either "free" or "subsidized". But Android on the desktop will face all of the same barriers to entry that any other *nix distro face currently. Apple is a HUGE name in the industry, and their *nix based OS has taken almost a decade to *nearly* establish a double digit market share (which is more than Linux has been able to do in twice that length). My personal opinion is that a significant share of that OS X growth has come at the expense of other *nix OSes, not just lost Win32 market share - in much the same way that AMDs market growth came at the expense of Motorola, Cyrix and other competitors, not Intel. How is Android for the desktop going to be any different? I could be wrong - I see the framework that this idea is built on. Linux releases Android (which, of note, has failed to generate as significant of buzz as the Blackberry Storm as an iPhone contender, at this point). They build up market share and killer mobile apps. The platform is available on the desktop, so you can use your killer mobile apps on your desktop too. The problem is, this migration path of killer apps is backwards. No one has ever gone, "I wish my MOBILE apps were available on my non-mobile devices". How many people really ever plugged in a Gameboy to their Dreamcube to play on a bigscreen? Sure it was done, and was a cool gimmick, but it ultimately didn't add a lot of value to the Nintendo lineup. On the other hand, people on mobile devices ALWAYS wish they had their apps and data from their non-mobile machines. That is why Windows Mobile offers a half-baked Office suite... an attempt to accomodate that desire. But again, this is the lure and hook with which they want to snag you as a paid subscriber for cloud based applications and storage. "Have it all, wherever you go, whatever you are on". And this is where Google is a threat to Microsoft. If they can achieve this, Android, Win32, *nix, and OS X are all relatively irrelevent. Microsoft appears keenly aware of this. Apple doesn't really sell OSes, they sell hardware and content, so I don't think they care so much. Non DRM iTunes simply means that more consumers can buy conent through iTunes for various devices, for example. I see two ways that things go: 1) Consumers and business reject cloud computing, just like they rejected the "return to thin client/big iron" computiing, and the loss of control that is implicit with this model. The status quo remains the same barring some MAJOR new paradigm of OS interfacing. That is, Win32 continues to largely dominate, Apple maintains a strong #2 position, and the various Linux distros exist largely in the anarchy of the PC OS wastelands as the messiah of the uber-nerd with an occasional Ubuntu rising up for awhile, gaining some attention, then losing steam and slipping back into the relative obscurity of the Linux realm. 2) Microsoft and Google enter an all out war over cloud based apps that effectively make the entire platform relatively irrelevent. Consumers widely accept the limitations of control that go along with this model, based on the far higher level of convenience all around with the cloud based model. This *is* the major new paradigm of OS interfacing. Linux could "win" in this model, but only in the sense that it doesn't matter how you get onto the cloud. That seems like a hollow victory. I can also imagine that Microsoft might make Win32 freely available in such a market. "Microsoft Cloud Apps run BEST on FREE Windows 2015 OS!" Google Apps and Chrome are a bigger threat than Android or any desktop *nix to Win32 dominance. Probably the biggest threat Microsoft has faced.

shadfurman
shadfurman

desktop OSs will NEVER be obsolete! People are ALWAYS going to need a full OS for their desktops if they can't (or don't want to) afford internet, or are in an area with no wireless, or cannot connect to the internet for security reasons. This rediculous concept that a cloud computing OS with make a desktop OS obsolete is based on techno geeks scifi wet dreams. It may reduce the number a flavors available... I hope it does that... but if windows stops making a full desktop OS, I WILL go someplace else (after I use the last one they make till it won't install on a new machine)

shadfurman
shadfurman

but nitpicking on the use of the word 'never' in this world of exageration... come on. But considering how many people still don't have phones, I think its going to be a while before everybody in the world has internet. I think its going to be a very very long while. Barring some free google like project that blankets the entire globe with wireless, I don't think it'll happen for more than a hundred years... but then thats just my take, either way, I am still going to want my OS on my computer.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

While I agree that it will be a while before desktop OSs disappear from the landscape, 'never' is an awfully long time. Your comments about lack of Internet access assume no improvements in communications or security.

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