Saturday, October 25, 2008

Netbooks and the new age of linux

Recently, I have noticed an interesting trend on many online electronics retailers. They seem to be competing to sell low-priced extremely small laptops!  These amazing machines are more netbooks than notebooks as they make up in size for what they compromise in performance. They are extrmely efficient machines for browsing the internet and accessing email - two critical activities business travelers seem to really need.  Being light and wieldly, these netbooks provide additional functionality than the expensive smartphones that have been rulign the roost in the business traveler segment. 

Two important developments are making these small netbooks a reality.  Solid state drives and Linux.

The solid-state drives that made the ipod famous are now revolutionizing laptop technology. These drives lack movable parts, are extremely light and are therefore ideal candidates to be the core components of small laptops that are vying for the huge business traveler segment.  But, there is one more challenge - the operating system. Windows in its current state has become so cumbersome and complex that it needs more than 2 GB for installation.  If oen is trying to configure a light laptop with a 4 GB solid state hard drive, obviosuly Windows is not the right choice. Step in - Linux.  With an extremely small kernel that can be customized to operate a small wrist watch to a large monster machine, Linux offers a great opportunity for netbook manufactureres to configure their wares.

Check out this new offering from HP at amaon for a mere 299 USD.  With a 4 GB hard-drive and a SUSE linux OS this netbook is surely a small wonder.

It increasingly seems that Linux will be a dominant OS in the small-devices market.  Google's Android that is based on an open source OS is already hittign the markets and more devices such those being sold by HP and Nokia are gaining traction.  I always believed in Sun's adage that the "Net" is the computer.  As we move towards a stupid-client computing model, Linux is sure to play a more dominant role in powering small, intelligent and cheap devices.

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