Moblin netbooks are coming - can Linux based netbooks find a market?
When netbooks first started hitting the market, they were low on raw power, storage and profit margins, meaning that they were ideal candidates for running the Linux OS.
Asus, who arguably kicked off the whole netbook market with their Eee PC machines, originally shipped their devices with a variant of Xandros Linux and robust SSD drives. As the market matured, Asus moved to match their competitors by concurrently offering a more traditional Windows XP / hard drive option, and only recently ceased to offer the Linux configuration.
Despite the fact that Windows XP devices dominate the market, it seems Intel's 'Moblin' initiative could bring the Linux movement back to the massive Netbook marketplace.
Speaking at the first Linuxcon Conference in Portland, Oregon this week, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said "You're going to see this week interesting new netbooks coming out that are killer. They have the cool factor and they're priced right". Jim believes that the Netbook segment is moving towards providing a free device on a wireless service contract, with a model similar to that used in the mobile phone industry today. His (questionable) assertion is that this drives down costs and encourages a low cost model that only Linux can work with, as it removes the Operating System licensing cost - something Microsoft simply aren't able to do.
While Moblin does appear - even in it's current Beta state - to be an accomplished mobile Linux distribution, it remains to be seen whether the mass market is ready for Linux on their netbooks. As a frequent Linux user myself I can see the many benefits of having a Linux based portable device, however a large proportion of the population is used to using Windows and will want their purchase to replicate their 'regular' computer using experience - isn't this the reason netbook manufacturers were so keen to move towards Windows XP in the first place?
I look forward to seeing what comes out of IDF this week, where it is anticipated that both Acer and Dell (previously strong proponents of the Ubuntu distribution) are expected to announce the first shipping devices based on Moblin.
Is there a market for such devices?