New toys

I recently got my nerdy paws a pair of Asus Eee PC netbooks. (Thanks John!)  These are the ones running LINUX off solid state drives.

I’ve got one updating, but the 4 Gig system drive on the other is full, and I’m going to have to find a way to clean that up.

Another entry into the Netbook OS market

Intel has their own custom blend of Linux for netbook computers, called Moblin.

Release 2.0 was just announced.  It’s got a slick UI and takes advange of special features of Intel’s Atom chip, which is found in a lot of netbook.

I don’t think it will sell as well as Windows 7 or Android, but it is interesting to see the competition in this market.

Android as a Netbook OS

There has been grumbling about the lack of cell phone platforms available for Google’s Android OS. Perhaps it is because the cell phone platform was just a Beta test for Android.

Rumors about Android being targeted for Netbooks have been around for a while.  Well, it’s not a rumor anymore.  Android has been successfully loaded on an Asus Eee PC 1000H Netbook.

A low overhead, open source OS with the backing of the Google brand behind it.   This could be bad news for Micosoft’s sales projections of Windows7 in the Netbook space.  Consumers who are not comfortable with the current alternate of a LINUX based OS would feel more comfortable with a Google branded OS. (Yes, I know Android is LINUX based, but I’m talking marketing here, not the technical aspect.)

The fact that Google has made Android open source, means no OS licencing fee.  The Microsoft licensing fee is a big cut into the profit margin of any netbook sold running XP, Vista or Windows7 in the future.

Add Chrome to the mix, Google’s browser, which many feel was designed more as a platform for cloud based applications than a general purpose browser and you have a platform that fullfills many of the basic functions that users have.   Google has added the “offline” feature” to gmail and their calendar app.  I expect tasks and Google docs to follow soon.

Here is a senario to consider, using your Android cell phone’s G3 connection as the Internet connection for your Android netbook.  The Android to Android connection could be over Bluetooth, WiFi or even a USB cable.

A long post on Operating Systems.

It’s an interesting time for operating systems.

The landscape was Microsoft dominating, Apple with a small, but fanatically loyal share and LINUX pulling up a distant third with a tiny hardcore geek base.

Then Microsoft decided to make its users relive the ME days with Vista, only worse. The timing was horrible, since Apple was gaining new customers with the iPod and iPhone. People who had deep, meaningful relationships with their iPod/iPhone and didn’t like what they were reading and hearing about Vista. So they figured what the Hell, and bought Mac desktops and notebooks.

Now, Vista isn’t as bad as its critics say it is, but it did have its share of problems. Lack of driver support when it was released was a big one. The overall bloat hurt them badly as well. People who upgraded not only found they had problems getting their various components to work properly, but what was a reasonably snappy system running XP became painfully slow running Vista. Then there was the outcry of the geeks against the new layers of “DRM Crap” stuck in the core of Vista. Ok, I was one of them, and it’s one of the reasons I’m still running XP. Then there were the multiple editions of Vista. Home Basic, Home Premium, a couple of business flavors, and for a bunch of money, the full featured version. This alone is all you need to know that Microsoft marketing is operating clueless and without a net. Given that, those who stuck through with Vista are much happier since Service Pack 1 came out. It seems that ugly blind date Microsoft stuck them with, cleaned up pretty good with SP1. Some users speak nicely of the new user interface, but a lot are still looking back at their XP days fondly.

Let us not forget our friend the penguin. LINUX was finally hitting non-nerd hands as the OS of choice for low cost netbooks. Personal computer manufactures work at razor thin margins, and an XP license can run $50. The whole idea of the netbooks was a lean device that did what you needed and not much more. Small screens, tiny keyboards, 4 Gig flash RAM hard drives and 512 Meg memory. Trying to wedge Vista into that wasn’t going to fly from a marketing standpoint, let alone a technical one. (ya, ya…I’ve heard geeks say they have Vista running on scaled down systems. I’m wondering what they had to turn off, and which of half dozen plus versions of Vista they were running).

Still, I’m not seeing much in the way of LINUX market penetration beyond the netbooks. Sorry geeks.

Since Acer got the netbook ball rolling, the larger manufactures have entered the market, specifically Dell and HP. They offer netbooks with LINUX at or near the Acer price point, and more robust (more RAM, bigger RAM flash HDs) models with a more consumer friendly XP loaded.

Even Microsoft figured out that Vista was a non-starter with the netbook market. That is why they extended XP beyond their already announced end of sale date.

Which brings us to Windows 7, which Microsoft has been frantically leaking information about. Call it Vista reengineered if you like. It seems that Microsoft actually learned something from the beating it has taken over Vista, and has its engineers going through the OS code and “cleaning up.” Actually removing unneeded code and rewriting modules to be smaller and faster. A couple of lines here, a few cycles there. When you have all the code teams actively doing it, those small trimmings add up. From what I’ve heard from people who have BETA releases, Microsoft has hit its goal of having Windows 7 run on netbook platform.

Before we get too excited, keep in mind the release date for Windows 7 is Q110. So you have another year of keeping XP running or taking the Vista plunge if you are a Microsoft OS user.

Now let us talk about the new kid on the block. Yup, Google. You have heard the rumors about Google getting into the OS market. Guess what, they already did. It’s Android. The Google OS is already loose in the wilds, running on a mobile platform and trying to pass itself off as a mild mannered phone.

Ok, so you can make calls with it. I can make VoIP calls with my desktop too. The lines are blurry these days. Most people with iPhones will tell you that the fact that they can make calls with it secondary. It’s a mobile internet device. Android is a Creature of the Clouds (You heard that description of a Cloud computing based device here first kids!).

Android is designed to work well with the existing Google net based services like Gmail and Google calendar. It also isn’t locked to a platform and provider the way the iPhone is to Apple/iTunes. Listen, I have a deep and meaningful relationship with my iPhone, but it’s getting dumped once Android gets a bit more mature and supports a few more platforms and providers.

I would not be surprised to see Android, or some flavor of it, running on netbooks by the time Windows 7 hits the street. I wouldn’t bet that Google couldn’t beat Microsoft in getting a netbook running Google OS on the shelves before Windows 7 is commercially available.

Updating right after posting! According to CNET, Microsoft is going to try and get Windows 7 out by Q409, specially for the Christmas buying season.  Good luck guys.  I’m still sticking by my Android on a netbook first prediction.

Dell enters the small notebook market

The NY Times reports that Dell is entering the low cost, mini-notebook computer market.

It’s called the Mini 9. For $349 you get Ubuntu LINUX. For another $50, you can have XP. The base model has 512 Meg of RAM and a 4 Gig solid state flash “hard” drive.   You can get more RAM and and a bigger flash drive, but the price goes up.  The model with 1 Gig of RAM and 16 Gig flash drive will put you back $450, which puts close to standard laptop costs.

They come standard with 3 USB ports, a 3-1 media card reader, audio I/O jacks, WiFi and an Ethernet jack.

Linux Phone

Here is the Neo Freerunner, running openmoko.

Update: It’s a GSM device.