Tuesday, January 31, 2006


In other news today, Google confirmed the long-held belief/suspicion that it is working on a desktop OS. Called Goobuntu, the OS will be based on Ubuntu, an increasingly popular Linux Distribution, with extra google-bits added on top. In my view, there are two points which it would be crucial for the Google engineers to work on in order for there to be wide take-up of Goobuntu having just downloaded Ubuntu and had a look at it (I should add that I really know very little about Linux):

1. Hardware support
The average user does not expect to have to trawl support forums to find drivers for their hardware. It would have to 'just work', straight out of the box, without any tricky work for the user. For example, I ran Ubuntu, and was unable to connect to the internet because I could not make it recognise my USB broadband modem. This would be unacceptable for the non-computer geek, and the Windows CD would be re-inserted in seconds (I have given up with it as well, the 'instructions' for making my modem work are here. I have very little idea of where I would start). It is also notoriously difficult to install Linux on a laptop, with problems such as 'win-modems', whatever they are, not working properly. It would be difficult to persuade every device manufacturer to produce drivers for Linux, until Goobuntu had a major market share, and it could never achieve a major market share if it did not have very good hardware support.

2. Ease of use
This is linked in with the hardware support issue, but whenever I have tried Linux in the past I have not been able to use it properly as for any task slightly complicated, it seems that you have to use the command prompt. I, like many other people, have neither the time nor the inclination to learn how to use a 'shell' (I think thats what its called) in Linux. Google would have to make there a GUI way of performing just about every single function. This is something Mac OS X and Windows do very well, and is no doubt a major factor in their prominence, whatever gripes people may have with Windows every so often.

Goobuntu could be a runaway success, with people seeing it as a way to leave Microsoft, which the vast majority of people seem to believe is the embodiment of all evil, but only if it moves away from the model of an OS which only geeks can use, towards a system which anyone between the ages of 3 and 101 can operate.

I should add that Google has given very little detail on Goobuntu, and has not even said that it will be made available to the end user. There is a remote possibility that it is only designed to run at the Googleplexes around the world.

UPDATE: Turns out that this is all an unfounded rumour, even though the Register reported that it had been confirmed by Google. Apparently, Google use ubuntu internally, but have no plans to make it available to non-Googlers. Just think of the post as what Linux needs to do before it can reach widespread home desktop use!

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