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Lenovo, Linux, and the Coming of the Chromebooks

However great the strides made by user-friendly distros such as Ubuntu and Mint in recent years, it seems fair to say that Linux has not yet enjoyed any sweeping successes on the desktop the way it has on the mobile side with Android.

That, however, may be changing.

Thanks once again to none other than Google, Linux is now appearing with increasing frequency in the PC lineups of hardware makers including not just Acer and Samsung — whose Chromebook is no less than Amazon’s top-selling laptop — but now Lenovo as well.

Schools may be the initial target for Lenovo’s machines, but given Samsung’s success, in particular, there’s no telling what may come.

Bottom line? It just may be “another nail in Microsoft’s coffin,” as it was recently put. A Rapturous ResponseLinux Girl

Now, mention the words “Microsoft’s coffin,” and you’ll soon get the rapt attention of more than a few Linux fans.

Attribute it to something Linux-based — such as Chrome OS — and you’ll have a party on your hands.

That, indeed, was pretty much the scenario down at the Linux blogosphere’s Punchy Penguin Saloon when news of Lenovo’s new machine arrived.

Linux Girl fired up her Quick Quotes Quill and recorded as much as she could.

“Hopefully Lenovo is just the next in a long line of hardware manufacturers,” enthused Google+ blogger Linux Rants, for example.

“The environment is fast, stable, and safe from many of the threats that plague modern day PCs,” Linux Rants explained. “Add to that that they’re remarkably inexpensive, and you’ve got a winning combination for a sizable percentage of computer users.

“Add that to Android tablets, and you’ve got enough to put some serious hurt on Microsoft and its waning desktop domination,” he added. “The sooner the better.”

‘People Don’t Want M$ Crapware’

In fact, “I would say, What took you so long, Lenovo?” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol told Linux Girl. “Chromebooks are hot, and it’s their prime time.

“You see, all that BS that the netbook is dead, is, indeed, just BS,” Ebersol explained. “People just don’t want winblow$ + Intel (Ok, winblow$ definitively not, but Intel can slip through, folks will accept it).”

Microsoft “proclaimed the netbook dead because it could not succeed on that market,” he suggested. “Intel also is not good with ant-sized processors. Now, we’re seeing a boost in Chromebooks sales.”

So what’s the lesson here? “It’s not that people don’t want small computers; people don’t want small computers loaded with M$ crapware (and worse, paying a premium for it),” Ebersol opined. “I would like to be a tiny fly on the wall in Redmond and see the red face of Mr. Throwing Chairs, when he realizes people are buying the ‘dead’ netbooks (Chromebooks) and Surface is just getting dust on retailers’ shelves.”

‘This Will Open the Door’

Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland saw it similarly.

“I certainly hope more companies start selling Chromebooks,” Hoogland agreed. “At the very least this means more devices that are coming Windows-free (and thus cheaper cost) by default.”

Small, light and cloud-oriented computers “seem to be the future,” Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. mused.

“In that sense, Lenovo is welcome,” he told Linux Girl. “I think this will open the door for some GNU/Linux distributions into some other models of Lenovo, and other computer makers. Once their Chrome OS computer is a hit, they’ll taste the Linux world. So be it!”

‘This Fits the Trend’

And again: “There is a definite trend to having content live on the Internet and just accessing it with your device, and this fits the trend,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien concurred.

“Think of streaming music, streaming video, and how phones and tablets are used to access them,” he explained.

“The big weakness with phones and tablets is that typing is very hard,” O’Brien pointed out. “A Chromebook gives you that with six hours or more of battery life and reduced weight. It won’t make all laptops obsolete, but you can see where it fits.”

‘Put Down the Crack Pipe’

Hardware vendors essentially have no choice, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet opined.

“Not only does Win 8 make Vista look like a hit, not only is it driving sales down when the OEMs were already hurting thanks to brain-dead ideas hoisted on them by Wintel like ultrabooks and touchscreens where they made no sense, but MSFT has made it clear that they see the future as ‘MSFT hardware running MSFT software that can only get programs through a MSFT app store’ a la iOS,” hairyfeet explained.

“I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: the board at MSFT needs to put down the crack pipe before it completely obliterates what Bill took 30 years to build,” he concluded.

‘Competition Is a Great Thing’

“Sticking with Wintel may provide a slowly sinking revenue forever, but Lenovo requires growth,” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “They had to break the mold to get that.

“For most of Wintel, OEMs were in fierce competition with tiny margins,” Pogson explained. “Thanks to M$, they could not cut prices for the OS. They had to cut on hardware, which made competition even more difficult.”

Then, “when ARM became popular on smartphones, many millions saw that Intel was not required to have fun, a lot of fun,” he suggested. “Lenovo could not ship ever-more-powerful Intel processors to retain market share. Every OEM now has to ship ARM and x86/amd64 with GNU/Linux and Android/Linux in order to avoid losing share to those rapidly growing segments.”

Now it’s become clear that “smart thingies are not just accessories but main computers for people,” he added. “Lenovo sees that and has to ship what people want or they will get it elsewhere.”

In short, “competition is a great thing,” Pogson concluded. “Thanks to M$’s inability to fit a rapidly changing market, we are returning to a free market after decades of corrupt anti-competitive deals. It had to come eventually, but it’s better late than never.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

4 Comments

  • To clarify my original comment, I am speaking of Acer’s $199 C7 Chromebook, which–by all accounts–is a re-branded AO756-2641.
    I also forgot to state that it has microphone and speaker jacks.
    Let’s hope that this is an ongoing,and growing, effort by Acer, and not just a way of working off their small-notebook inventory.

    Hope this additional info makes life easier…for you, not Microsoft.

    • I never thought I would say this but Chromebooks are even WORSE than MSFT for lock in!

      For those that don’t know even though you are talking bog standard X86 laptop, Celeron dual core, 300GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM IIRC you can NOT just put any distro you like on a Chromebook, unlike a Windows netbook (which at 11.6 inch screen is pretty much what this is) where you can just pop a USB stick into the system and be booting Debian or Puppy or anything you want. You have to 1.-Completely wipe the drive, no going back or dual booting for you, 2.- put it into "dev mode" and use a bunch of CLI to get around partway the locked boot, 3.- you can ONLY use a specific version of Ubuntu written by just one guy IIRC so whether you can even boot Linux at all is depending on this guy and if he quits tough luck, 4.-After all of that then and ONLY then can you install that one version of Ubuntu with a cracked bootloader.

      I’m sorry but even at $199 that is just not a good deal. Not only is the possibility of having a usable Linux to run on it, thus making sure you can have a supported OS even after Acer has dropped support, not only is that seriously iffy, but without an Internet connection (and the 6 strikes rules look to shut down free WiFi) this thing is pretty much a doorstop.

      Considering you can go to a site like Cowboom or Tigerdirect and get a refurbbed netbook with better specs or for an even lower price but unlike this no need to hack the bootloader or worry about support support in the future as you can run any bog standard X86 distro I just don’t see these as a good value. Heck some of the netbooks even have a high speed browser based Linux built into the boot ROM (The Asus EEE units with Expressgate) so you can have the fast speed and more secured OS while still having the ability to install ANY X86 OS so you can have the upside to a Chromebook without the down makes it an even easier choice.

      So until the Chromebooks are truly as open as a Windows netbook so I can install ANY OS that I choose on the hardware I’m gonna have to call it a pass for me and my customers.

  • An Acer $350 notebook for $199? A no brainer, when you look at the specs:

    dual-core Celeron CPU;
    2GB RAM;
    320GB HDD;
    HDMI, VGA, 3 USB, SDHC MMC reader, WiFi, Ethernet!;
    1366×768 screen;
    Camera.

    And instructions on the internet explain how to turn this into a conventional Linux machine.

    This should be the next big seller.

  • It took some time, but people are finally starting to realize that a reasonably-priced device that’s easy to use and starts fast has a place in the market. This is especially so now that Google has added more offline capablities. Lenovo joining in should give Chromebooks a major boost.

    But what if you need Office and other Windows applications? You can use a third party solution like Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP client that enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab.

    Even if you purchase a Chromebook for casual home use, you can also use it to connect to your work applications if necessary.

    Click here for more information:
    http://www.ericom.com/RDPChromebook.asp?URL_ID=708

    Please note that I work for Ericom

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