A year ago, August 1st, 2014, I wrote a piece titled "Is the cloudbook the future of Linux?" Now that Microsoft has released their cloud-centric Windows 10, I find myself revisiting that topic... with much wonder. This falls in line with Ubuntu finally releasing the source to their shuddered Ubuntu One system.
With this system available for usage, now is the time for a distribution to move forward as a full-fledged, cloud-based platform. Until that happens, what do we have? If you're a fan of Linux Mint, you might be pleased to know that the Mint-based Peppermint Six is one such distribution that has tried to go the distance to merge Linux and the cloud.
What makes this Mint derivation so cloud-friendly? You don't have to look far to find Peppermint's cloud and web app application management tool, Ice. Peppermint Ice isn't new. In fact, Ice released to the public in 2010 as a Site Specific Browser (SSB) to launch web/cloud applications directly from the desktop or menu. The application or service will launch in a single window (as opposed to a tabbed window).
This might sound familiar. In fact, if you've used Ubuntu, you know this system fairly well. For example, in Ubuntu Unity, when you go to launch a cloud-based service, you're asked if you want to add the shortcut to the service/app on your launcher.
Okay, this is all fine and good, but effectively, you're still just using a browser to connect to a third-party cloud service. With that in mind, pretty much every operating system can be a cloud-based platform. In fact, I could install a Linux distribution that pre-dates the cloud, open up a web browser, and point it to my Google Drive account. Voila! Instant cloud.
So, the answer to the question? I lean towards "no."
As solid a solution as Peppermint Six is, the only cloud-based goodness you get is Ice. Why not include a cloud sync service (such as Insync) or roll in a cloud connector for the Nemo file manager. Or, better yet, why not take up the mantel of Ubuntu One to create a Linux-specific cloud service... or at least a cloud service that could integrate with the likes of Google Drive.
- A Linux operating system
- A fork of Ubuntu One's cloud service to connect with
- An integrated cloud sync system to keep cloud files backed up
- All seamlessly integrated with Google Drive
Now, that would be a Linux cloud platform worth having.
I realize there will always be naysayers. At this point, however, the cloud is going nowhere. And with an entire generation of up and coming mobile-only users, dependency on the cloud is only going to increase.
Of course, we cannot speak of cloud-based Linux without mentioning Chrome OS or the smattering of Linux Chrome OS clones (think Solus and Chromixium). Clearly, Chrome OS is the king of cloud-based platforms. The Linux Chrome OS clones mostly just do a good job of mimicking the look and feel of Chrome OS. Are they truly cloud-based platforms? To a degree, yes. But with both Solus and Chromixium, you'll still find the power of a full-blown, non-cloud OS running underneath (from my perspective, this is actually a strength and not a weakness). To that end, however, it's hard to label either as a cloud-specific platform. This same issue holds true with Peppermint Six. It's not a cloud-centric platform. Instead, Peppermint is a standard OS with the inclusion of an SSB that can run Software as a Service (SaaS) with ease.
Maybe I was wrong from the beginning. Instead of the cloud being a possible savior of the Linux desktop, what is truly needed is a full on cloud desktop stack that would include the ability to integrate and sync with your cloud service of choice. Something like this wouldn't be hard to create, considering the pieces are already there. It would just take a distribution willing to weave the silver into the cloud's lining and deploy that desktop cloud stack by default. Upon first run of the desktop, the user could connect to their cloud of choice and let the integration and syncing fun begin.
Maybe Peppermint is already close to such a solution. Maybe Solus or Chromixium could pull it off. Or it could be that there's another player out there ready to make this a reality. All the pieces to this rather complicated puzzle are already available. It'll only take one insightful mind to put them together in the right way to bring about the next-stage revolution the Linux desktop needs.
In my original piece, I never actually stated that the cloudbook would save the Linux desktop. In fact, I don't believe the Linux desktop is in need of salvation, because it stands on its own perfectly well. I do believe, however, that Linux needs a cloud-centric option. In a few short years, my guess is that most every platform will be very much in tune with the cloud. Because of this, that desktop cloud stack could be a serious deal maker or breaker for new users.
What do you think? Is the Linux desktop where it should be with regards to the cloud—or has it fallen behind?
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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 jackwallen.com.