Dell made a great choice when selecting Ubuntu as the operating system for their Linux PCs. Offering Linux on PCs has always been a bit tricky since there are so many vendors. Other companies, like Red Hat or Novell might be good choices for the server, but Ubuntu seems to have a better solution for the consumer desktop. Custmers will even be able to get support from Mark Shuttleworth’s Canonical.
With so many people disillusioned with Vista, the time might be right for a bigger push toward desktop Linux:
Dell, suffering market share losses to top PC seller Hewlett-Packard, is trying reinvigorate its direct ties with customers, an approach that long has been the company’s hallmark. Linux-based PCs was an “overwhelming” request from the IdeaStorm site, Cook said.
“We heard loud and clear from customers that they wanted this,” Cook said. And of those who wanted Linux, “80 percent came back and said Ubuntu,” Cook said.
Dell began selling Linux PCs in 1999 and added laptops in 2000. But in 2001, Dell reversed course, canceling the Linux PCs because of insufficient demand. Today, Dell certifies Red Hat or Suse Linux for use on some business-oriented PCs, but except when larger customers place custom orders, customers must install the operating system themselves.
This time, things are different, Cook said.
“We think great strides have been made since 2001,” Cook said. “Linux has evolved to a point where there is something available for consumers,” though Linux PCs will appeal mostly to a Linux enthusiast market that’s more limited than that for Windows Vista. (Quote from Stephen Shankland at CNET)
Richard MacManus is running a poll at the Read / Write Web to determine whether people prefer desktop or browser apps. A day later, the results so far show that 62% prefer browser-based apps while 38% prefer webified desktop apps.
Judging by the comments, people fall into a few camps:
Desktop-based code is faster:
“I have no clue who could possibly prefer web-based applications over ones running on your own computer. Native code, faster rendering, more memory, more bandwidth… how could ‘oooh, how neat, it works in my browser’ compete with any of those?” (Comment 1 from Mike Rundle)
I need to share my apps across multiple computers:
“Well, I use five different computers on any given day, four windows XP and one Mac. You tell me how on earth am I going to enjoy apps running on any one of those PCs” (Comment 2 from hombrelobo)
Both are great for different reasons:
“Basically what I’m saying is that certain apps (like productivity apps) are better suited for the Web, where production apps still have their place on my hard drive. So choosing between them is a little like choosing between my children, or maybe more like choosing between my cars, or maybe more like choosing room to take a nap in.” (Comment 8 from Steve Swedler)
In today’s world of near constant connectivity where work, home, coffee shops and airports are increasingly enabled for wireless, I tend to lean heavily toward browser-based apps. I am essentially forced to use Microsoft Outlook / Office / Communicator as part of the work environment; however, these are not the apps that I would select given a choice, and my personal usage tends to be browser-based with only a few exceptions. I almost always have Gmail, Meebo (IM), and Netvibes (RSS reader) open in Firefox tabs, and I use Google calendar, Blogger, and Remember The Milk (task list) at least daily. I also use a couple of desktop apps every day, mostly OpenOffice.org and iTunes (podcasts), but not nearly as often as I use the browser-based apps.
This is a drastic change from a few years ago when connectivity was far from constant. I tended to prefer desktop apps to keep my data available when I was offline. Now, I find that the need to be connected is nearly ubiquitous. Even when reading email offline, people have embedded links to relevant information requiring a network connection to finish reading many of my emails. Over the past 6 months or so, the only time I usually find myself without any network connection is on airplanes. This just gives me an excuse to catch up on reading.