You Say You Want a Revolution?

Eyeing the trends around user-friendly Linux desktops, sub-$500 notebooks, universal broadband, and Web 2.0 office applications, my colleague Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols opines that we’re on the brink of a low-end Linux revolution.

For my part, I’m not so sure.

Without question, Linux has matured into a effective, manageable, and low-cost solution for companies’ and individuals’ computing needs—I’ve been getting my work and play accomplished quite nicely since just after Windows XP went gold, in 2001.

However, I’m severely underwhelmed by most of the low-cost notebook machines that Steven cites in his column. The Asus EeePC, for instance, sports a paltry 800×480 pixel display at a time when dread horizontal-scrolling is becoming the norm on even 1024×768 displays.

What’s more, universal broadband doesn’t seem so universal to me, and I live and work in the ultra-connected city of San Francisco. As long as our government opts to parcel out spectrum for wireless data exclusively to cell phone carriers, I don’t see this situation improving significantly enough to allow us to relocate our computing to the clouds.

Finally, while I’m an enthusiastic user of Web 2.0 applications such as those that Google offers, until Google and others nail the problem of offline access, most of us will have to stick to fat clients with plenty of storage.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see a revolution in mobile computing and connectivity as much as anyone else, and I believe that Linux, as an open and vibrant software platform, can play a significant role in such as transformation.

However, software is only one part of the equation, and we simply will not see the sort of thin, light, and well-connected hardware required to deliver us into this flexible computing future as long as we lack mobile Internet connectivity service providers that are satisfied to shelve their walled garden aspirations, get out of the way, and give us simple IP dial tone we need bring this future online.