RE: The NetBook Battlefront

Gerry Ilagan wrote an interesting post about netbooks the other day saying that it would be the right approach to offer an alternative Windows look-alike interface that made me think. While I can’t disagree that this will keep some users satisfied I do not think this would be something we should do. Just imagine you’re looking at a netbook running Xandros, Ubuntu or any other Linux distro for that matter and it looks like Windows, maybe just similar. People who don’t much about computers could mistake it for Windows and will use it as if it was the OS from Redmond up until the point they realise some applications won’t install or won’t run, taking the device back to the place they bought it. Now they’re told that it won’t run because it’s Linux and just looks and behaves like Windows which could further increase the feeling, which we just began to overcome, that Linux is some sort of cheap Windows, a demo version.

Where do I open the Internet?

When you think about the buyers, there are three different kinds of them like those who know it is Linux and they’re buying it because of this, those that are buying it because they have no idea what Linux is and lof course those people who don’t even know what Windows is. I think that especially the last group is part of those people who would be the most favourable target for  the deployment of one, familiar looking interface but they are also those who’re most likely not returning the device once they figured out how to use those pretty neat interfaces like the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

The Linux community should in my opinion focus on making the experience using one of those netbooks as easy as possible but not by copying others simply for the reason to create the illusion of running a familiar OS.

No choice without knowledge

Spreading Linux shouldn’t only be about, spreading Linux, it should be about increasing the size of the Community, increasing the awareness about why we are not Windows, why we are not OSX and because people should be able to make an educated decision about whether to use it or not. Their is no real choice when people do not know what they are using and there will not be any choice if we fool them.

The Ubuntu Netbook Remix is one step in the right direction, giving users an easy, minimalistic yet powerful interface for the small screen real estate netbooks have to offer without giving up its Linux identity. We are not there yet, and the next year won’t be the the year of the Linux netbook and it certainly won’t be the year of the Linux desktop, but always try to remember: It’s not the point.

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2 thoughts on “RE: The NetBook Battlefront

  1. Agreed. My Dad uses Windows – only he doesn’t – he uses Firefox and Outlook Express and manages his digital photos.

    He could easily use Linux, substituting Thunderbird for OE – and Linux photo management software.

    I honestly think he would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

  2. @Andy C: Exactly and many of those people without any computer expertise are already familiar with apps like Firefox, Thunderbird or Pidgin because some relative, friend or co-worker might have installed it on their machine. Sadly, the often don’t know that it’s FOSS, or what FOSS is.