back to article Google's vanity OS is Microsoft's dream

No one will be happier than Microsoft about Google's vanity venture to market computers with a Google-brand OS. It gives us the illusion of competition without seriously troubling either business, although both will obligingly huff and puff about how serious they are about this new, phoney OS war. Since both of these giants are …


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  1. DZ-Jay


    Thank you, Mr. Orlowski, for bringing a bit of common sense and rationality to El Reg. Seems like the hype of Web 3.0 is really exciting your brethren there.

    Plus ça change..., as they say.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Sad but true

    My view on the contents of this article.

    If Google throws resources at open source Linux, it could have made a dent in Microsoft's dominance. This half baked attempt at a very niche application is going to have very little impact.

    The only aspect I disagree with in this article is that over 90% of users will indeed be served well by the thin computing model. Most people don't edit video. They do want to share photos but these need to be uploaded anyway. Updating a facebook profile, or getting emails, looking at photo sharing sites, looking at BBC news, recipes etc. is what most of the public do. El Reg readers are not "normal" users.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Linux is a fine OS until you get to the applications - ah, yes... GIMP - and integration with the real-world, doing stuff your Mum needs to do. "

    That's just plain wrong. Linux distros of various flavours can do everything that 80% of the population need from their computers: word processing, email, web browsing, music and camera connectivity. Mums the world over have no reason to use anything else.

    It's professionals that are missing their apps. Gimp is, as far as I can tell, no longer being developed except by a handful of people who don't use it and is so far behind the curve it's out of sight now. Inkscape is good but has some strange quirks and is limited to single illos or pages. Scribus is a form of torture compared to InDesign. No Quickbooks or any reasonable facsimile No Flash editing suite etc etc. It's really only programmers like myself that can really get the usage out of Linux by writing our own software and I've not actually used Windows for a decade now, although I recover and repair other people's Windows machines.

    Mum's fine, it's pretty well everyone else that's going to struggle with Linux.

  4. Bill Gould
    Gates Halo


    A good read and well put together.


  5. Mr Spoon
    Dead Vulture

    Some more research maybe?

    Come on, I've only read a few brief articles about this and I'm still seeing misconceptions in this piece. I broadly agree with the gist but it's all a bit sloppy.

    The article talks about this OS as if it's going to be a Linux distro, it's not it's just using the kernel and its own UI, much like Android.

    Also: "Android would have been a much better choice". This is being based on Android....

    Also, Java isn't an interpreted language, seeing as it must be compiled to bytecode to run on a VM first.

    Yes the Gimp has a bit of an annoying UI (though it was recently greatly improved) but picking on one app is a little unfair. If you look at the vast majority of Gnome apps they adhere quite strictly to the Gnome UI guidelines, certainly far more so than Windows apps, particularly Microsoft's.

    "Google doesn't really have a lot of faith in its own cloud computing applications if it needs to take a huge multiuser OS and strip out the innards, just as a backup." : It's not stripping out the innards, it's only using the innards (Linux itself, not the GNU userland).

    I could go on...

  6. Kwac

    @Robert Long 1

    No problem - let the professionals pay for (and get tax relief) Photoshop et al.

    I'd suggest that Linux can do significantly more than what 80% of the population use their computers for though.

    Linux isn't Windows - in the same way that a Ducati 996 isn't a Ford Ka.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge


    ...if only it hadn't been orphaned by Nokia. You can get it with decent slide-out keyboard (N810) or without (N800) and it's lived in my pocket for 3 years. It has a fairly decent UI for a mobile device, and runs continuously for me for 5 days between charges. I wrote a ton of pyGTK apps for it, and it even runs an old mobile Firefox. I keep the parts microfiches for my motorcycles on it, for instance.

    It has a killer 4" 800x600 screen which is about 2x the DPI of anything else. I frickin' LOVE LOVE LOVE that crisp little display. I also love the touchscreen which has lasted years of heavy use w/o issues, unlike Palm crap.

    Soooo close..... The hardware was willing but the company was weak.

    Anyway, I think Google is going "look at us! we're edgy! cutting edge! makin' an OS!" and when there's not much reaction, they're going to quietly drop it when they realize how much work it is.

  8. Andres

    Missed the point somewhat

    Where does it say they are aiming for a full-blown OS to sit on desktop PC's / servers? No wonder IT people get such negative press. You make it seem as if we are obsessed with raw power and functionality and to hell with the interface and the actual user requirements.

    A majority of users would be happy with a cheap netbook that was quick and easy to use and maintain for mail, web and a few apps. Simple really. You don't need to be able to edit video in real-time while creating 3D animations in the background - that is not the requirement and therefore not the aim of the OS.

    No-one has nailed it yet and Google are having a pop at it. Why not sit back and see what happens? Apple achieved something similar with the iPhone, not the most powerful phone on the market but the one that most closely met the need. Google may actually create something good but either way, competition for the other OS' is good.

  9. Alain Moran

    guess what's in my pocket ;)

    "a lovely QWERTY keyboard for messaging, a screen that's good enough for browsing and a photo album, and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket."

    That would be the Sony Ericsson Xperia-X1 then.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Too many OS' to be honest. Give me one good OS that the kids and I can play games on, but also allows me to do the odd bit of work at home, and I'll be happy. Right now, that's XP.. if Linux gets it's head out of it's bowels and starts supporting games a bit more readily, it'll take up faster. Till then, XP/latest-ms-piece-of-crud will be the dominant platform.

  11. yossarianuk

    The new overlords wont like talk like this.

    Tsk el-reg . Careful what you say they know/hear everything!

    I do take issue with your idea of Linux apps, I find the apps for video/music editing brilliant on Linux - any encoding is generally far faster in Linux than Windows (on the same hardware). Even games (yes - theres not lots) are generally faster in Linux - i do actually benchmark both systems - some games (COD,Civ4,etc) are actually faster in Wine than in real windows (on same hardware)

    ...Kompozer does a good job as a free dreamweaver suite. Gimp is very powerful once your used to it - I know a couple of designers who actually use Gimp for their work (and this is Gimp on Macs...). OpenOffice does everything I will ever need in an office suite.

    I do not (will never) need autocad / MS office / Quick books / Sage, etc so I am not missing anything,except the ability to play some games.

    As a grown up I consider games fun but the amount of games available is not going to influence my choice of O.S - Kids should keep to shiny Windows... Grown's ups should use a stable system that YOU can control.

    Hardware is generally also less of an issue on Linux nowadays than windows (most hardware does not require you to get a driver as they are built it to the kernel)

    Maybe we should wait to test our new overloads O.S before we judge it ?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    MSFT's ad campaign about Apple being expensive has been squeezing Apple laptops. With Google's push in Netbooks (and validation of it), Apple's OSX will be squeezed even further. Apple will do fine with it's iPhone, etc.

    Maybe iPhone and Android can win more and more in the consumer space. In the near term, I'm afraid enterprise will still be using MSFT.

    Of course with Google's tentacles keep extending, how long will they be treated as a do-no-evil "undergod" rather than a vicious competitor (or monopoly)? I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing for MSFT. Google is already under scrutiny by the Feds. And soon, the Feds and EU will move their attention away from MSFT.

  13. Josh Rhoderick

    Are you serious?

    Most people don't do heavy video or image editing on their computers anyway. Cloud-based computing is more than sufficient for 90% of those people who do nothing but use Facebook. If you think this form of computing is going nowhere, then you're just as short-sighted as those people who claimed that digital music was a fad.

    And Linux is just the damn kernel. Those apps you're whining about are part of a Linux-based desktop environment. They almost certainly will not be included with anything Google offers.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want a proper computer

    To do proper computer things. If anything, this looks to me like an attempt to kill Linux by using Linux. If anything, Chrome looks to me to be little more than a way to move the iPhone/Android app store model to the desktop and I have little need for closed systems.

  15. Paul Coen

    Home users

    The "netbook" market doesn't yet exist - consumers are buying them as cheap notebooks. They want to be able to use Facebook, but they also want to be able to plug their Canon/Panasonic/Sony/whatever digital camera into it and run the camera maker's software. They want to be able to use a multi-function printer/scanner easily, etc.

    And software. Telling someone "Hey, stop using Photoshop Elements and use this thing called 'GIMP' instead" gets you funny looks. The stupid name is half of it, of course, a common problem with many open source packages.

  16. northern monkey
    Thumb Down

    @Mr Spoon

    "This is being based on Android...."

    Do tell us your source because AFAIK the only people who've said it's going to be based on android are commentards speculating. Google haven't said anything of the sort, though if they have do let us know!

  17. sam 16

    google arnt as bad as you think

    Googles company culture is weird in that its developers are obliged to spend part of thier week on "weird side projects". This has brought innovative stuff like streetview, or in fact nice online mapping full stop to the desktop.

    It is also worth noting that thier cloud stuff is still way better than anyone elses because it has been their core business for years to make it that way.

    Although when I first read this I thought "chrome running fullscreen on linux? give me ten minutes and a cross compiler".

    But in the context of the company I genuinly hope for something cool.

    Usually google make accademic research into something usable, so look in that direction...

  18. chew6acca

    Not so fast

    "There's certainly a gap in the market for new classes of devices, somewhere between a phone and a full-blown laptop. Pocket communicators with built-in connectivity, and a better keyboard than a phone, could be far preferable to any "converged" device on the market today, even the sainted iPhone.

    Think of the old Psion 3 or 5 pocket computer on steroids, offering a lovely QWERTY keyboard for messaging, a screen that's good enough for browsing and a photo album, and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. Today's netBooks really don't have instant-on yet, nor an optimal UI - and in a pell-mell competitive market where margins are squeezed, they're getting bigger, heavier and more expensive."

    What about Tegra?

    Instant on, long battery life, full HD video, fits in your pocket, touch screen or qwerty, etc.

    - Google Chrome OS is the last piece of the puzzle - "an optimal UI".

    1 year from now....

  19. JohnA 1

    uh.. They said that about the iPhone

    Linux is just a poor windows clone.. It will never be successful (on the desktop) because it will never be windows. However, if google are any way serious, they have the image and clout to redefine the desktop (i.e. get rid of it) and how people interact with their computers. They could end up being a threat to Microsoft in ways that Linux never can.

  20. Billy 8

    I think you overestimate...

    .. what a very large number of people do with computers these days. A very large proportion of the people I know use their computer (usually a cheap laptop) to connect to the net (usually with a dongle), read their myspace/facebook/hotmail, look at a couple of websites, maybe watch a youtube video or two. Then they switch it off and go do something else.

    I think we're getting into a very mature market where "pro's" buy the tools they need (dual quad-core, photoshop, lightroom, whatever) and most people buy what's cheap and "good enough". Most people aren't F1 racing drivers and are quite happy with a car that starts first time, lets them drive to tesco and get their shopping home. Then they stop thinking about their car. Most people don't buy a Canon 1Ds with ten L-Series lenses and an Elinchrom rig - they point their mobile phone at their mates and press "click". Those who really need that kind of kit will seek it out and pay the extra costs - but for the majority? They don't need it and don't really care.

    I'm old enough to remember "ZOMG! You've got a computer in your own house!!!!!1111" and people being amazed by '10 PRINT "Hello! "; GOTO 10'. Part of me is sad that those days are gone. But gone they are...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    A good review, points well made...

    ... but (and I guess it may be what I hope for) the development of a ubiquitous device on par with a mobile phone.

    The sort of computer that you trade in every couple of years aimed at "person in the street".

    Whether it is a wi-fi'd dumb terminal with minimal offline functionality or better?

    My fear is that it will be a grey box with brand logo applied after manufacture.

  22. Hetz Ben Hamo

    Did you really read the blog post?

    1. You can't run GIMP because.. there won't be X/X11/Xorg. Google is going their way with "a new windowing system", so unless someone will port GTK+, tons of other packages which rely on X, there won't be GIMP.

    2. Have you ever tried pixlr? (, you can do tons of stuff with it and it's much better then GIMP (IMHO). All you need is flash and it's much better then Adobe gives you.

    3. Google wants to integrate some of their tech into their OS, namely Gears, O3D, Native Client etc. They don't want to compete with Ubuntu/Fedora/Pick you distro, they're building something which will leverage their tech with the hardware of the Netbook.

    4. I really suggest to you to look into Dave Perry's GaiKai demo, specially the last part (where he shows Photoshop CS4 running) and think about that technology combined with Chrome and Netbook..

  23. Leo Maxwell

    I'm no programmer....

    But Linux has been able to handle any Computer based task I need for the last 4 years or so, apart from legacy MS based apps at work- which we are slowly reducing our dependence on.

    The author is just missing the point - the biggest problem with netbooks is that the OSes used are not sufficiently optimised for the job, XPhome is pants on them too, 7 might just be usable, if MS doesn't cripple it too much, but they were never meant to be cheap PCs.

    And the Smartpads (which Google is probably aiming for) will be more powerful, more versatile,and more portable - but they probably won't use Intel processors, so no Windows.

    Oh, and I use the Gimp, 2.6.6 was released a couple of months ago. Scribus is an excellent tool if you understand page layout (no Publisher fans), not really used Inkscape, so can't comment, but I'm going to try it with my new Graphics tablet (yes, it works with Linux).

    I don't have a spare £1000 for the Adobe suite, and I don't use pirated software, so it is totally irrelevant to the argument.

    Nor do I play games, but if I did, I would probably buy a console.

  24. zonky

    Surely the point is that Google OS will support ARM

    This could be the killer here- with ARM support, this could get these netbooks into the market place, and seriously hurt Microsoft, if they can deliver on battery life /performance.

  25. AceRimmer

    @Alain Moran - guess what's in my pocket ;)

    You beat me to it!

    Plus I can choose whichever interface suits my mood:


    PointUI home 2

    or Touch Flow 3d

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Very good article

    And the people who keep wheeling out the claim, "I'd suggest that Linux can do significantly more than what 80% of the population use their computers for though." I'm sorry, but that just plain ordinary BULLSHIT.

    The ordinary user wants to play games; they want to edit documents that they've brought home from work (and whilst OpenOffice is very similar to Office in a lot of basic features it isn't 100% compatible - and therefore useless for that really complex budget spreadsheet they've been working on night and day). They want to edit pictures, and cut the fluff from that video of the kids they've just made. They also want to connect over the VPN to work using the Windows software that work have authorised them to connect to work with.

    The vast majority of people don't want to just browse the internet and get their mail. That's why Netbooks only started working when they threw away the crap SSD drives and useless OS and started putting proper hard drives and Windows XP on them.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Leo Maxwell

    "Oh, and I use the Gimp, 2.6.6 was released a couple of months ago."

    Yes. I'm stuck on 2.4.7 as the 2.6 series has gone down the toilet in terms. I have to use Krita for working with my RAW format images and it is a dog-slow memory hog (and ugly to boot).

    "Scribus is an excellent tool if you understand page layout" As it was done in 1902. If I wanted to experience QuarkXpress levels of user friendliness I'd ask a Met officer where de white women are at.

    "Not really used Inkscape, so can't comment, but I'm going to try it with my new Graphics tablet (yes, it works with Linux)." It works with my graphics table and works well, but is is "just" a very good vector art package with some font-handling issues. I like it. But I know that my graphic artist friends would find it underpowered at the moment.

    There's a lot of good software on Linux and, as I said, it covers most people's needs (better than "cloud computing" which is just the same old Big Iron model that's failed so often with yet another paint job), but at the high end the truth is that paying developers gets the work done faster when you have really complex problems. Usually, that is; Vista clearly demonstrates that it's no guarantee of success.

  28. Jim 59

    Vanity OS

    I agree with your gist on the Google OS. Sounds like a bit of a non-event, destined to go the same way perhaps as google apps, google calendar and so on. However these comments are a festival of ignorance:

    "Linux is a fine OS until you get to the applications - ah, yes... GIMP - and integration with the real-world, doing stuff your Mum needs to do."

    Yes, Linux has thousands of free apps installable at the click of a mouse. It is therefore not difficult to pick an underdeveloped one. And no, my mum does not need to do advanced image manipulation, does anyone's?

    "Linux consistently fails to pass the consumer test."

    Linux has not failed with the consumer. It has never been tried by the consumer because Windows is factory integrated on every PC. The Wintel duopoly will ensure this remains so, and awful efforts like Vista will continue to make the public hate their PCs.

  29. iamapizza

    y so srs?

    Ah, the speculation and 'hope' in this page of comments is rife with fanaticism.

    This article does make sense. Forget about the affronts to Linux/Windows/GOS in this article, look at the points being made. Underneath, it is going to be Linux. It's Linux. End of. To call it G's very own is bordering on fanboyism.

    However, what I think was missed in the article is that this new OS is aimed at netbooks - so it can be made quick, lightweight, and fast to update your facebook profile, because that's about all that you'd use a netbook for. You won't use a netbook for most of your apps. For that, you'll have a regular laptop or a PC. If all you're going to do is browse, surf, or tell the world that you're on a netbook because you have not much else to do, you'll get a Mac or a GNetbook.

  30. J 3


    AC: "if Linux gets it's head out of it's bowels and starts supporting games a bit more readily, it'll take up faster."

    If AC gets his (I suppose) head out of his bowels, he will notice it's actually the other way around. Games have to be made for an OS, not an OS modified to support them (and while emulation or whatever it is Wine does helps, it's allegedly still not the same, but I haven't tried). One would think someone reading El Reg would know that, but wonders never cease.

    Anyway, does anyone still play sophisticated games (not solitaire or Tetris, mind) on computers anymore? From what one hears here, I'd say so, but I don't know really.

    If I played games I'd buy a console.

  31. Dave Ashe
    Thumb Down

    I will go out and buy 10 google machines

    Just to prove you wrong :-)

    Running code over the network is the future, google is going in the correct direction

  32. Mark Roddis

    Lots of missed points

    But any so called netbook OS does not need to run applications (be they MS or Linux in origin).

    Surely we are talking about a bare metal browser. A browser that that boots straight up with no under lying OS to speak off?

    And if this is the case then the the browser itself, be it from Google or Microsoft or Opera or whoever does not matter.

    So maybe this new OS (or whatever you want to call it) is closer to being an embedded operating system (like WinCE) because in this light weight user world, that is all that is needed


    Sitting here in a hotel room in Reading connected by 3G I can say for sure that the world is not yet ready for 100% cloud based apps if this is the best speed Vodafone can manage out here in the sticks next to the train station.

  33. Mr Blonde

    It's a trap!!!

    Google is sailing up Microsofts blind side. When the desktop is the browser most users will be happy doing mail, facebook, myspace, twittering and what not....

    Remember Picasa and YouTube!!! Google will not be gimping around as the astrotards so merrily maintain.

  34. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Sorry, can you say again please... I must have dozed off when you started wanking off over Linux.

    Yeah so... you were saying that I can play Fallout 3 under Linux right? Sorry... my apologies, not Fallout 3, because of course that's a modern game that I don't have to spend 4 hours compiling software libraries for right? Ok, you must have meant Photoshop Elements because that came pre-installed on my Windows PC and I'm familiar with the interface, so I'm presuming that it must work right out of the box under Linux yes? Errr... what do you mean no? No Photoshop elements? You're joking right? Ok, and what's all this about having to compile binaries, mount a filesystem (I'm guessing that's all Linux geeks ever get to mount) and learn command lines like GREP AWK FUK -9 | $$"! >> CHMOD +755 or whatever the fuck, just to get my graphical environment to work. Sod that.

    Anyway, this Google thing... fine, until you're whole O/S environment and productivity is held to ransom by your ISP during peak usage.

  35. Mad Hacker

    Thou Dost Contradict Too Much, Methinks

    You start out saying.

    There's certainly a gap in the market for new classes of devices, somewhere between a phone and a full-blown laptop. Pocket communicators with built-in connectivity, and a better keyboard than a phone, could be far preferable to any "converged" device on the market today, even the sainted iPhone.

    Then you say:

    The idea of a desktop running a thin OS served by the cloud is fine - until you want to do image processing, or make music or videos. You do realise [sic] there's more to a PC than updating your Facebook profile, right? <snip> Get back to me when there's real-time video scrubbing, rendering or multiple levels of Undo.

    Whoa there Andrew! You just contradicted yourself. The second paragraph is describing a full blown laptop (if editing videos isn't intense enough to relegate you to a full size laptop, then what tasks, pray tell, did you have in mind that would justify a "full-blown laptop?")

  36. jpennycook

    We had instant-on in the past

    "Today's netBooks really don't have instant-on yet, nor an optimal UI - and in a pell-mell competitive market where margins are squeezed, they're getting bigger, heavier and more expensive."

    The Psion NetBook(R) had instant-on, and a choice of three operating systems (so lots of UIs)...

  37. Mike Richards

    @Paul Coen

    'And software. Telling someone "Hey, stop using Photoshop Elements and use this thing called 'GIMP' instead" gets you funny looks. The stupid name is half of it, of course, a common problem with many open source packages.'

    One reason not to use GIMP for photographs is that it is still limited to 8-bit TIFF. After finally getting photographers to start using RAW, it'd be a huge backward step to ask them to start using an inferior piece of software.

    And the name's shite as well.

  38. jim 45

    not again

    Another 'endless beta' from Google, that will perpetually lack critical features and eventually be abandoned.

  39. Charles Manning

    @Slow witted wanker doser

    You're quite right that grep awk fuk -9 does hinder the uptake of Linux. However that shit can be readily wrapped into something hidden from the user. That is something that is particularly easy to do if distros are custom rolled for netbooks etc. Look at Android phones. They run on Linux and you don't need to grep or awk them.

    Something like Android on a netbook could be great. That does everything most people need most of the time.

    The only thing that keeps Windows a "must have" in the household are games. Linux can do everything else.

    To make netbooks a reality, we need to dump x86 and move to ARM. That is possible with Linux but not XP.

  40. John 137

    @Dave Ashe

    Running code over the network is the future? It's also the past. You can talk about running the code remotely and accessing it locally, or fetching the code from a remote server and executing it locally; both have been done for decades. All the way back to the first timesharing system in the first case.

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  42. GrantB

    That Psion

    that was so good; did it run Photoshop?

    Like most people I know, I have several computers; a desktop at home with a largish screen, a work laptop and considering buying a lightweight netbook or iPhone. On the work machine I have Photoshop Elements; though judging by sales, you would assume only about 1-2% of the market would have that. In-fact if you look at other Windows only applications; somebody mentioned Fallout 3, I would guess that less than 1% of people bother with highend gaming; that won't run on my old XP laptop either.

    In fact the classic 80/20 (or is that 90/10?) rule applies; 90% of the time, a netbook or iPhone would give me what I need. For the other times, a PS3 or my other computers do it.

    There is always a cost/benefit; you focus on a small irrelevant (to most people/most of the time) thing like the ability to run Photoshop (though it will run Picasa no doubt) yet overlook the benefits of a smaller, kinder and faster Linux supported by Google. My mother has installed no purchased software since she brought her XP machine; but has had to worry & pay people to deal with virus. She did not backup photos or emails, so after a factory restore lost everything. A Google machine that stored her photo's, emails and contacts online makes so much more sense.

    Finally, the thing that should worry MS is that within 2 years, the iPhone already has more applications and developer support than Windows Mobile ever had. Applications may not be such an issue holding people back from using a Chrome based netbook anymore.

  43. Paul Louth
    Thumb Up

    At last

    Great piece. Finally some sanity in between the mania.

  44. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  45. Peter 39


    The move will certainly be talked up by Microsoft as evidence of competition on the desktop. It's not really as MS has long-since leveraged its Windows monopoly into corporate apps (Word/Excel/Powerpoint and most importantly, the Exchange family) and droids (many IT staff).

    But we're missing the point here, which is that the OS space is splitting. MS keeps trying to tell us that Windows is the only solution, and it is not. The solution for heavy local processing is not necessarily the same as that for lightweight netbooks, or phones etc. Many posts implicitly acknowledge this but others have clearly missed it. This is a game-changer.

    Google has the smarts and the deep pockets to see that this is a first-class system. I'm sure it will be.

  46. Stephen Bungay


    "Linux is just a poor windows clone.. It will never be successful (on the desktop) because it will never be windows"

    JohnA makes the classic mistake of confusing the graphical environment with the underlying Operating System, while going on to say "It (Linux) will never be successful" is an indication that he is in a state of denial. JohnA is correct about one thing though; Linux will never be Windows, which is good because it would be a crying shame to ruin it.

    Linux is not entering the desktop market, its already there. As Windows users jump-ship I install on average one or two Linux desktops a week. One might scoff and say "whats one or two desktops a week"? The one who says this forgets that a short twelve months ago that number might have been one a month. If the trend continues it will soon be one per day.

    Those who abandon Windows are aware that Vista was new just 30 or so months ago and don't want to buy Windows 7. They know that Windows 8 is probably just another 30 months after that and the expense is begining to be seen as throwing good money after bad. Businesses can't justify the expense of replacing XP with 7 as they see no tangible long-term benefit, only long-term expense. They know that going 100% Linux is not an option because they might rely on applications for which there is (as yet) no Linux equivalent, but since they still have their XP license they bridge the gap by using virtual machines where needed.

    For the most part, these brave-souls, having freed themselves from their chains, enjoy no longer being bothered by the slate of subscription-ware that anti-virus applications have become. No longer do they need to pay people like me to come and clean the malware off their computers. They write their documents on their word-processors, crunch numbers on their spreadsheets, design marketing pieces, produce PDF and EPS files for graphic-artists, surf the net, schedule meetings, manage contacts, sync their smart-phones, send and receive email, write and distribute newsletters, and all the other things that they used to do with Windows. They learn to avoid traps like Lexmark, Canon, and Kodak printers and to ignore the 'installation CDs' that come with new routers or a new ISP connection.

    There are many desktops to convert, and by installing Linux I'm (eventually) going to put myself out of the "window-cleaning" business and into the data-migration business, which is fine by me. I might even get back into the software writing business, authoring some of those missing Linux equivalents mentioned earlier on.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pithy title required.

    From article "will simply notch up another failure for Linux" Yes Linux is a failure on the "blue screen machines". But the evil that is Linux has managed to slither its menace around the PC and silently embed its self in things like mobile phones, consumers devices like set top boxes and even the servers that PC's like to request their daily dose of porn from. According to netcraft, is run on a Linux system.

    Linux is not a desktop OS in the sense that most people see. But it is not a failure in other computing areas and in some, like supercomputers, enjoys the type of market share MS has on the virus laden desktop.

  48. A. F. Fero

    Summer of Code

    Google has been sponsoring FOSS development for years. I have no idea why they choose to do it, but I don't have to worry its all GPL stuff.

    KDE including KOffice, Gnome, X, Wine etc., have all benefited from this.

    They have been watching it all for a long time and know quite a bit about the kernel IIRC.

    Hardware manufacturers sell Google a lot of kit, so it will be a difficult customer to kiss off, if that's what's happened elsewhere

    If the competition remains an illusion then there is still no competition and that isn't Google's problem. Google seem to (what do I know?) tread carefully with their main market to defend against the accusations of anti-competitive activity that er, "others" continually insinuate.

    It could be that they're just having a bubble because they've got loads of money and annoying people that try and annoy them is something that only costs loose change

    Thing is, it's not our money and it can't do any harm. May even turn out to be Canonical on steroids. ((open)SUSE since 1998, myself)

    Rory Cellan-Jones had just finished off his Radio 4 piece with "ah but Windows 7 will be out quite soon" but he seems to miss the point - Microsoft _need_ to both sell Windows 7 and for it to be not that great else they won't be able to sell you Windows 8 - and FOSS is given away.

    Eventually market dynamics will kick-in, it sort of happened with the unplanned extension of Windows XP sell-by-date and reduction in price.

    Steve Ballmer was right FOSS is a cancer - in that it is very difficult to control its growth or once you think you've "sorted" it, to know whether or where it's going to pop out next.

    For parallels, look at the once mighty Kodak. Gone are the days when everywhere you looked it was yellow.


  49. yossarianuk

    El-Reg : funded by M.S?

    How much do they pay you el reg ? Thats the only explanation you can be so against a product you have no idea what it will be ....

    Among the FOSS world there has been a mixture of thinking that Google is the saviour to being more of a threat than MS ever could be.

    The people who believe that Google are trying to split Linux/Foss are mad - Google contribute lots to various Linux projects - Linus himself has said that google employees contribute a large amount of code to the kernel - this project will I am sure see google contribute even more.

    Google built their business around Linux and continue to do so - they need a successful Linux. harming the community will harm them.

    I imagine hardware support will increase (in many way it is far better than any version of Windows anyway) and I await to see what their new UI will be like - I imagine Google will do a good job but will wait till I see it before I judge.....

    Many El-reg is scared of the brave new world awaiting us ....

  50. Jon 52

    MS out then

    The way I see it;

    GoogOS - home users who just web, email and write the odd document.

    MS - In the office

    Macs - coloured pencil/video editors

    Serious Gamers will use Xbox/PS3 as these are almost PCs now anyway.

  51. Dibbles
    Thumb Up

    Like it!

    Thank f@*& for the Reg; I had been reduced to something approaching incadescent rage at TechCrunch et al's attempt at impartial journalism on the 'Chrome OS'...

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Linux just doesn't work

    I recently pursuaded my partner who wanted a netbook that getting the cheaper Linux version would be fine having believed all the reports that these new versions of Linux were simple to look after and work with.

    Although the thing ran pretty quickly it wouldn't update itself correctly continually throwing errors about missing dependencies and god forbid I try to do anything complicated like try to remote print to our iMac.

    I consider myself pretty tech savvy (I should be I've worked in IT for over 12 years) and if I was struggling with it I can imagine what the average punter would think whos used to Windows or OS X would think.

    The whole point of a netbook should be that its SIMPLE. Not more complicated than your desktop machine. Until that day arrives Linux will continue to FAIL.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is the obsession with linux uptake amongst the lusers?

    It's a power tool for geeks. Let's keep that way.

    If you want to fight with your Word doc because you're too lazy to learn anything else then that's fine. You've made the correct decision, well done you. Go and update your anti-virus or something equally redundant.

  54. Estariel
    Thumb Up

    Netbook + ??? = Win

    Does it run Warcraft? No? Thats (what?) 20 million people who wont buy it then....

    But most of the people around me - the Facebook + YouTube + Hotmail + CameraPhone crowd - would be more than happy with this. Throw in a £5 memory stick for offline copies of those "must not lose" pix and docs, and its all there. What percentage of the computer buying population is this? 80% of a billion people?

    If the Netbook+Chrome is cheap enough (including hardware) then the gamer crowd can just buy (whisper it softly) TWO machines. Or just re-use the (now obsolete) 2005 vintage gamer PC.

  55. Sandtreader

    Video editing in the cloud

    Just to correct the assertion that there are no useable cloud-based video editing apps out there:

    No connection - except for those of us that remember RISC-OS, yes, it's *that* Forbidden Tech.

  56. copsewood

    Andrew Orlowski doesn't understand collaboration

    "will simply notch up another failure for Linux (whose fans are quite happy to work for The Man, as long as it's not the Man from Redmond)"

    The benefits I get from open source software helps pay my teaching salary. So I'm happy for IBM, Intel, Google and various otherwise evil corps (even including Microsoft) to pay salaries for thousands of other salaried programmers to work full time on open source. Why should I be concerned if my relatively minor contributions to open source benefits large companies, given that their contributions to open source software benefits my business greatly ? This is win-win without the need for money to change hands.

    Since when were the only trade relationships in software worth discussing either corporate employment, or a supplier/customer relationship where money changes hands ? Economists have been aware for decades that most of the value created within the conventional economy results from not directly monetised (i.e. voluntary) work, generally between close family members. This isn't surprising when you factor transaction, contractual/negotiation and supervision costs into the equation; it's only surprising if you ignore these factors.

  57. RichyS

    Article is a bit daft

    The fact is that the majority of home users simply surf the web, upload a few photos, check their email, and probably sync up an iPod. Occasionally they'll type of a strong missive to the Daily Mail/Bank/whomever has upset them that week. For this, you do not need a full blown laptop, and a device running a cloud based OS will be perfect.

    To suggest that Google OS will fail because it can't support making music or video files is similar to suggesting that the Ford Fiesta will fail because it can't get to 60 as fast as a Porsche Boxster. I don't need to go that fast -- I just want to go to the shops (disclaimer: I don't have a Ford or a Porsche, or even a 'My other car is a Porsche' sticker in my standard issue IT consultancy Audi).

    A lot of Linux's problems come down to most people not knowing what it is. Most people have heard of Google, so are much more likely to trust a computer so branded. Weaning people of Windows won't be easy, and won't happen over night; but it can happen.

  58. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    "And above us, only sky"

    Very eloquent Corpsewood, but 15 years of this kind of collaboration hasn't produced an OS your Mum can use.

    You're trying to redefine Failure as Success by sprinkling some virtue over it.

  59. Chris 67

    @ MS out then

    Until they bring out a proper mouse/keyboard combo for my PS3, most of my FPS gaming will stay on the PC. Plus ability to customise with mods, maps, cfgs etc. Consoles are close, but not quite there yet imho.

  60. Roger Heathcote 1


    Well the current Linux desktops aren't flawless but it's worth pointing out that Quickbooks and Photoshop and many other windows apps run in Linux at native speed under WINE, even games like WoW and Half Life 2 run OK. There's crossOver if you want zero config & commercial support and there's a selection of good fast, free VMs if you want them too so it's misleading to say it has an application availability problem - it'll run MORE software than windows, not less.

    Anyway, I've learned not to expect anything better than this from Andrew 'McCarthy' Orlowski - if only there was a 'Get less from this author' link :-/

    Roger Heathcote.

  61. yossarianuk


    Yes you can play warcraft - through wine - this is one of the games that is actually faster in wine that in real windows - like civ4, max payne, COD1+2, etc....

  62. chuckc

    Android anyone?

    Has everybody forgotten Android? Google introduced a Linux based OS to the world a couple of years ago and now nearly every major phone manufacturer in the planet has announced plans to release a handset based on the OS (including rumors that Nokia may do so in the near future, which would only make sense since Symbian is dying a slowly resistive touchscreen death). If Google managed to turn the phone OS market upside down in a world where a couple of OSs reigned supreme, I don't see why they can't do the same in the netbook market (please note that I said netbooks, not desktops), which is relatively new and still open to newcomers.

  63. CD001

    A netbook is the flipside of a games console...

    If I played games I'd buy a console.

    ... and ...

    Serious Gamers will use Xbox/PS3 as these are almost PCs now anyway.

    Except for 1 very important point - if you get a console, you only get "console games"; unless something has changed since I canned my subscriptions months ago you can only get WoW on the PC and that's just the start; it's not just MMOs that are (currently) PC domain only.

    Console games tend towards having god-mode enabled, they're made easy - compare "Call of Duty" to "Call of Duty 2" for instance. The first was a PC game ported to consoles, the second was a console game ported to PC. The first could be tricky in places the second, well, you're wounded so you just sit still for a couple of minutes and you're back to full health.

    I'm not against console games (I've got a PS3) but I also play games that have not, and probably will never, be ported to a console - X3, NWN2, etc... and for FPS games, give me a mouse and keyboard any day.

    I would guess that the thinking behind netbooks is more that they're aimed at the appliance market rather than the PC market - to turn the "If I played games I'd buy a console." idea around a bit... "if I commuted by train a lot, I'd buy a netbook".

  64. Anonymous Coward

    @Michael 2

    If you want to edit HD video, you're not representative of 80% of the population but 20% of the population. Also, your son is not representative of 80% of the population - up to age 14 schools teach kids how to use MS Word and Powerpoint - not how to program in C# - this is sad but true.

    I have a Core i7 PC with 8GB of RAM, 1TB RAID0 and a Radeon 4850 graphics card. I don't like to wait for anything and play games occasionally (though Vista 64 bit is a hindrance).

    My wife uses the PC to get hotmail and facebook , so some powerpoint and download pictures from the camera. That's 80% of the population.

    As Sandtreader pointed out, there are even now online video editing services (not that I've tried any).

  65. Anonymous Coward

    Pocket computer????

    There were several pocket computers, going all the way back to the Timex, but none ever really caught on. I still have my Phillips Velo and Velo V, but alas no software but Microsoft CE and a limited Office suite. Wait a minute, thats nearly all I need, isn't it.?

    But now give me internet connectibility through more than a telephone (but don't dis the modem, in case I need it) and a better web browser than the "IE-limited" and the pocket computer of yester-decade will become the darling toolbox of tomorrow.

  66. steogede

    RE: @Slow witted wanker doser

    I find grep and awk very useful on my iPhone.

  67. Psymon

    aside from video editing...

    I think you have a valid point in this article.

    And aside from the inevitable sprinkling of linux trolls, some very insightful comments here too.

    Video editing does indeed require serious horsepower that pretty much relegates the minimum to a laptop.

    Or so you'd think...

    A couple of points I'd like to raise about vid editing that some commenters may have missed.

    The first is the lack of take-up in video editing. This is not down to people not WANTING to do it, this is because a lot of people CAN'T do it, just as they can't take a sample of sound from their favourite TV/movie/song - despite the fact that nearly every computer produced since the early ninties has been capable of this straight out the box.

    In the case of sound, even with windows sound recorder it's easy enough to operate the software, but beyond most mortals to figure out how they connect the input on their computer to the baffling array of outputs on their player device.

    For video it's the software, not hardware that's a pain. Dead easy to connect your video device to the machine, but then what? Video editing software across the board always has had the most obtuse and unintuitive interface design of any package type, simply because it was originally designed for profesionals, by profesionals.

    Adobe Premiere is a case in point. It took me a good 15 minutes of head scratching before I was able to resize a clip I'd imported into the timeline, and I studied multimedia in uni!

    Once you wrap your head around the conceptual design of the interface (in premieres case applying photoshop-esque filters to the clip), it all starts peicing together, but for an outsider...

    There are some new products that are making inroads though, so mum will evetunally be able to easily pick up an editing suite and chop together the birthday montage she's always wanted to do.

    As for raw CPU power required though...

    Yes, if you're using a HD camcorder to record an eight hour event, then a netbook would be woefully inadequate, but the vast majority of clips uploaded to youtube are low-res shorts captured on mobile phones. I should imagine a reasonable netbook could deal with these?

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once again, Reg commenters reveal their expertise

    "Linux is just a poor windows clone"


  69. Sputeen

    Be afraid

    From the vitriol above, it sounds to me like the anti-linux brigade are seething. I don't think I've seen so many expletives in the comments section before. A note to the potty mouthed - it comes across like you've already lost.

    Back to the story though - and I find it very interesting. It sounds to me like Google has intended to keep fairly low-key about the Chrome OS's Linux usage. It's no surprise that Google is using it, it's a large user of Linux internally and why re-invent the wheel? The frothers amongst you may once again argue that it doesn't work, but we must of course bear in mind that you are thick, and you are wrong. Wrong, because Linux isn't Gimp and Linux isn't OpenOffice, Linux is an OPERATING SYSTEM and those things are APPLICATIONS. Which by the way, run under Windows too. An OPERATING SYSTEM is something which makes your computer go. It (for example) controls when the fans come on and go off. If you stick a new card in, it is the thing responsible for loading the driver so that card will work, or not doing so and rendering it a lifeless lump of chips and solder. It picks up the signals coming from the keyboard and mouse. If you had a laptop with "just Linux" on it, it would boot to a prompt and a flashing cursor and nothing else, and would be of very little use to you. Like DOS.

    But that's all that Google requires. Because the Chrome bit will be the user interface that it will stick on top of Linux. In the same way that Android has been the mobile phone interface that Google has stuck on top of Linux. It will be Google's equivalent of Gnome, or KDE, or Enlightenment, one of a handful of user interfaces that Linux users get a choice of.

    I suppose the difference is that the above mentioned applications (Gimp etc) may not run under this new Chrome interface, whereas they will run under all the others. But Google's saying it doesn't require them - one, because it wants to direct everyone to it's online services anyway and two, because this system will not be aimed at people who require those applciations. It will be aimed at those people you see wrestling with Facebook on their mobile phones on the train.

    Linux certainly has struggled in the past, and considering that struggle, has done bloody well for itself, it is now just as difficult and frustrating to get external devices working with Linux as it is on Windows. It has achieved parity in that respect. But that is through years of reverse engineering, and relentless nagging of hardware manufacturers to provide Linux drivers. And some now do - Nvidia for example. Also, look at the reluctant nod that PC manufacturers have given to all this nagging. Some secretive, under-the counter deals whereby PCs can be shipped with Linux, only to be retracted later following some pressure from Microsoft with the excuse that "no-one was buying it" and the ensuing crowing from the Microsoft fanbois.

    Contrast this with the Google announcement, with barely a mention of the Linux name, and look at all the manufacturers lining up to partner Google. Nothing reluctant here. A great big press announcement, articles on the BBC (again with barely a mention of Linux, no surprise there). I don't think this is going to go away at all, I think this will be staged with all the hype of the iPhone launch; we'll see netbooks packaged with "Google Chrome" all over them and the word "Linux" will be nowhere in sight. Between now and then, Microsoft (and you lot, you know who you are) will be pointing and screaming "Linux" until you're blue in the face, but you know what? It'll fall on deaf ears - those people picking up the boxes in Asda and Tesco won't hear you, and if they did, they wouldn't have a clue what you're on about.

    I think Microsoft should be worried. That Kodak example was a good 'un.

    And as for those of you scoffing at the lack of applications, put it this way. If I was a producer of software for Windows (or any other OS), and suddenly masses of people were picking up these cheap netbook thingies, I'd be dusting off my porting team pretty sharpish.

  70. MarkJ

    ChromeOS is just OS X for netbooks

    Totally incompatible with windows? Check.

    Much more secure? Check.

    Runs perfectly on manufacturer certified hardware? Check.

    Comes bundled with basic productivity apps? Check.

    Surprising amount of hardware support? Check.

    Limited support for other OS apps? Check.

    Forgetting the merits of the software, how it is marketed will be the real deal breaker.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You read it here first

    Google will make their own hardware, like a netbook with built-in phone. The G1 phone is the first of a new battlefront.

  72. Syren Baran
    Dead Vulture

    @Andrew Orlowski

    Check your reality distortion field.

    Why isnt Windows ready for your mum? I dont know, how about asking teachers that TRY to teach elderly people how to use a computer (Windows of course). And no, i dont mean some 80+ years old senile people, more those state founded courses for unemployed people aged around 50. They get a couple of weeks of training and dont know how to turn on a computer. Obviously Windows isnt ready for your mum.

    Probably not even a VCR or a mobile phone is ready for your mum. Well, who cares.

    Strangely enough i have already installed Linux distros for people with no prior computer knowledge and just asked them what they want to do, showed them how to do it and they are happy.

    Oh hell, i already installed DOS for my mongoloid uncle, just added a simple repeating batch file that accepted the keys 0-9 and would start simple games or a slide shows with bare breasted women. Doesnt get much more user friendly than that, eh?

  73. copsewood

    @andrew orlowski

    "Very eloquent Corpsewood, but 15 years of this kind of collaboration hasn't produced an OS your Mum can use."

    As it happens my 85 year old Mum does very occasionally use the computer which my 89 year old Dad mostly uses to send the extended family an email. And it runs Linux/Ubuntu. When it was time for my Dad to upgrade from Windows 98, Dell, his previously reliable supporter and supplier was naturally chosen again. But the computer they supplied only had Vista on it which did not work on his hardware. My Dad was very impressed by the software on the Ubuntu live boot CD so he chose for me to install that rather than send the hardware back to Dell as unfit for purpose.

    Ubuntu works a lot more like the Windows 98 interface he is used to than Microsoft's more recent offerings. Unlike the Microsoft systems Ubuntu doesn't keep crashing or needing rebuilding every couple of years, and Ubuntu does not need an antivirus program or subscription, which he used to have but has now cancelled.

    My 80 year old father in law has also recently upgraded from an 8 year old originally Windows 98 computer which one of his neighbours tried to put XP on. It went like a snail. So he is now using my wife's ex 6 year old computer running dual boot XP and Ubuntu both quite well, but given the choice he prefers Ubuntu.

    It seems that older people who don't generally need to install any applications not on the repository menu available through the Aptitude packaging system are generally better supported better by Linux than by Microsoft desktops these days.

    Besides which, those who have never even heard of Linux are generally running it in their broadband routers or TV sets/cable/freeview/satellite boxes and webcams these days, which explains why big and nasty but profit conscious corporations are investing billions in open-source software development: this is more cost effective than trying to develop and maintain their entire software stack in house. They also are likely to fund the volunteers who seeded these programs to act as distributed project leaders, sometimes as employees though increasingly through seen-to-be independent non profits such as the Linux Foundation. This isn't just good public relations - it enables independent quality control and avoids costly development forks between competing corporations who have no reason to trust each other but which all need essentially the same software with minor variations.

  74. Ojustaboo

    Linux still has a long way to go

    I love Linux but it still has a long way to go before it's ready for the average user on the street.

    I have a fairly top end PC (i7, Nvidia 280 etc) and two weeks ago tried to see how far I could get just by using Linux. I picked Ubuntu as it seems the most popular (although Gentoo is my favourite) and installed the system.

    It went very well, straight forward really if you just accepted the defaults (and overwrote your windows partition) and before long, I was presented with my gnome desktop.

    I had open office installed, it's alright, it does the job but (as more and more Linux users on various Linux forums are admitting) it is no where near as good as office 2007.

    Then there was getting my sound working. Have an Asus Xonar D2x plugged into my amp via the optical cable. When I installed Windows 7, a simple double click of the latest exe and after a reboot, everything working fine, have a nice user friendly panel where I can click on any speaker, adjust the sound, eq, use Asus software to emulate EAX etc.

    In Linux, first I had to enable the option to show the IEC958 switch, then I had to tick it to enable it. Obviously the average user would know how to do that?

    Then I tried to get some of my games working. After about a week of trying various things, using wine, I finally had LOTRO running at an acceptable (not perfect) level. I didn't have DX10 graphics and I didn't have surround sound, I had to disable one of the options to stop building lights from flickering etc. I booted into windows 7 and disabled DX10, used exactly the same settings as with wine and windows beat it by miles, perfectly smooth, making proper use of my high end graphics card etc.

    I then tried to get Fallout 3 working under Linux and finally gave up and as I play games, am now back with windows.

    Most people do either play games or have kids (or relatives with kids visiting) where they want to be able to go into their local Asda or where ever, pick a game off the shelf, insert it into their DVD player and a few mins later be up and playing. I cant imagine many of them getting to grips with patching and recompiling wine.

    One of the comments I see over and over again in Linux forums by anti MS people is how unreliable windows is, how many times it crashes, how many reboots are needed etc.

    I installed windows 7, the nvidia drivers and Sound drivers needed a reboot, very rarely has any windows 7 update needed a reboot. Windows 7 RC has never crashed etc and I've used it everyday since it was released.

    I installed Ubuntu, it asked to apply some automatic updates, guess what, needed to reboot once they were done. Had to exit the desktop to install the latest Nvidia drivers, had to kill off processes to get my desktop back after fallout 3/wine hung it.

    Windows 7 has been more reliable for me than Ubuntu has. That is a fact not me being a windows fanboy, as I have said, I use and like both.

    But Linux is great if your happy tinkering around with config files etc, while it has come a long way, it is still no where near good enough for the average user in the street to get along with.

  75. Ojustaboo

    re; Roger Heathcote

    "Well the current Linux desktops aren't flawless but it's worth pointing out that Quickbooks and Photoshop and many other windows apps run in Linux at native speed under WINE"

    I haven't tried myself, but last week when I was looking at various wine related forums, I seem to see many many many people having no end of problems trying to get CS4 running under wine? Some have managed but I've yet to see them running without problems.


    "Bridge runs but screen refreshes are not good until you hover your mouse over the black part of the screen.

    Device central opens up fine but does not accept quit and you end up with a window not being updated.

    Opening photoshop from bridge did not work well as it would not start "


    The above is from a 2 sec glance at Wines app database

    And that was just the 32bit version. I have 64bit op system and I use 64bit photoshop.

    MS (up to the end of June) were selling any student the whole office pro package for just £39 and will probably do something similar come September.

    Adobe sell students photoshop very cheap too (compared to the normal price), £155 for Photoshop CS4 extended etc . If I was a student that needed a graphics package such as one of Adobes, what would I do, get the one the whole industry uses, or use one that none of my class is using and have to constantly find equivalent ways of doing things?

  76. Mark 65 Silver badge

    The problem with Linux

    I don't have a problem with recommending Linux for my retiree parents to use apart from the following issues...

    1. I haven't been able to find anything suitable for remote support (not RDP) of the LogMeIn / TeamViewer type where very little is required of the user needing support - they're pretty PC illiterate. *** Any suggestions for software gratefully received ***

    2. Less solvable however is the lack of ISP support for Linux. They're utter bastards, barely support Mac and are completely unwilling to help for Linux. It's the same old windows checklist - reinstall TCP stack etc - bullshit. A router, rather than modem, should negate this bullshit entirely. If the router has a connection then from there it's your problem unless they offer total support contracts.

    So there you have it. Apps for oldies are fine as F-Spot, DigiKam, Picassa, Skype etc will give them what they need outside of plain internet access (video is more of a problem as the KDE video app seemed particularly shite to me) but remote support and ISP problems are the real issue for Linux. There is a real market out there for an ISP that provides this hand holding - if someone knows of one then let me know.

    I honestly believe these simplistic users should be given something safer than windows like Linux but if I can't support them remotely (I'm not on the same continent so TeamViewer is ideal as I can just give a URL) and ISPs are going to continue being pricks then my only choice is to get them using OSX.

  77. Scott Lamb

    haw haw haw google munchkin hate

    I think there's a chance that google have the smarts to make an OS that significantly outclasses the typical netbook "friendly linux", they sort of have form in terms of making popular tasks accessible.

    But what're the chances el reg would give that perspective half a second's time, when they can be packing in the painfully overplayed google-chocolate-factory metaphors. Add a dash of redmond hate, apparently == reg article.

    Slashdot comments make for better reading than any reg article featuring the word "google".

    You're giving "hacks" a bad name.

  78. Nuno Silva

    If chrome os grows, linux grows too

    100% of decent servers are Linux compatible. Vendors make them that way.

    If vendors start making machines designed for ChromeOS, guess what? They will all run Linux (RedHat, SuSE, Ubuntu, Debian, every single one of them!). Just because of that it's great!

    Bring them on!

  79. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    I want neither my head nor data in the cloud(s)

    In a vain attempt to stem the tide of mutual OS/App-bashing, the following thought. Why cloud computing is a problem is more the issue than the underlying OS:

    Regardless of who wrote the OS I use (Window XP, Debian, and OpenSuse (and still PalmOS (Garnet) on my old T3)), I want to have control over my data. Not just because I do not wish to lose (access to) them, but also because there is an inherent overhead in distributed computing due to communication overheads. Yes I can process my 1GB MRI scan on the XX teraflop machine in Amsterdam fast than on my 16 core opteron or xeon server at our institute, but GETTING the XXXX data there is so SLOW it outweighs the CPU time benefit tenfold.

    And until they have a system to kick sysadmins remotely, I do so much more enjoy problems with on-site facilities than off-site ones

    Let everybody use the OS they like, and the applications they like or can afford, just don't lose control of or access to your data!

    Nah, back to bashing:

    I do all my (science) writing in LaTeX (with emacs), so who needs {MS,Open,K}Office!

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    For those of you focussing of video editing...

    I wonder if the Google OS will play The Sims? Or Half-Life 2? Or Crysis? The *other* major branch of domestic PC users are gamers, and unless it has DX10 and comprehensive hardware support to run on the machines required, this PC OS will be pointless to them. So basically, this OS (and Linux, if it weren't so user-hostile to run and maintain) are for people who just want a limited set of low-demand apps - much like the limited app suites on most smart phones.

    In addition, of course, I very much doubt that Microsoft will provide a version of Office for it, without which there will be no corporate take-up (and no, open office is not reliable enough to trust that your presentation / contract / whatever will be faithfully and properly rendered by your client, who won't want to install it just to talk to you), so bye bye corporate market.

    Microsoft wins, and frankly, for all its faults, so do we as we get consistency and predictability, even if it is near a low common denominator.

    / Having Vista, no I'm not a fanboi...

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  83. copsewood

    @Mark 65

    " 1. I haven't been able to find anything suitable for remote support (not RDP) of the LogMeIn / TeamViewer type where very little is required of the user needing support - they're pretty PC illiterate. *** Any suggestions for software gratefully received *** "

    Install openssh-server on their computer and login to it using ssh -X their.IP.Add.ress from your client. The -X gives you X forwarding. Then you can run GUI apps from your shell in background, e.g. try

    gedit &

    and it should run on their computer but display on your client.

    You'll have to forward the ssh port on their firewall/router if they have a router. Good idea to install denyhosts if you do this and have good passwords. If your parents don't remember good passwords or can't input these, then their login does not want ssh remote access, sudo bash to their from your login which can have ssh access configured, so you can run their programs on your desktop if they have a GUI app which they can't congure themselves.

    "2. Less solvable however is the lack of ISP support for Linux. They're utter bastards, barely support Mac and are completely unwilling to help for Linux. It's the same old windows checklist - reinstall TCP stack etc - bullshit. A router, rather than modem, should negate this bullshit entirely. If the router has a connection then from there it's your problem unless they offer total support contracts."

    The router solves it entirely as you say. Everything talks Ethernet these days and can do DHCP to get an address from the router. One thing you may have to configure if you have a very old fashioned ISP is the ISP DNS server addresses. On Linux these go in /etc/resolv.conf . See point above about forwarding the ssh port, but the router should be configurable using a standard web browser on any computer on the LAN side of the router pointed at the IP of the router on the LAN, typically , check the router documentation for this if not. Worth checking router documentation before you buy to make sure the router is controllable by you by this means and not left in an insecure state (e.g. WiFi left on with open access when you don't need it, unable to turn PnP off etc. ) without giving you ability to change this. I've seen some wretched router setups like this recently, though there may be a more suitable firmware in some cases.

  84. hj

    whatever the impact of the OS

    As long as Google can make a replacement for X, I am a happy man.

  85. Anonymous Coward


    Linux - they can't even give it away.

  86. Doug

    Chrome OS - a vanity project ?

    > The idea of a desktop running a thin OS served by the cloud is fine - until you want to do image processing, or make music or videos .. Linux is a fine OS until you get to the applications - ah, yes... GIMP - and integration with the real-world,doing stuff your Mum needs to do.

    Your Mum must be way cleverer than mine if she can do image processing, or make music videos videos. For most people the browser is the PC and a quick perusal of the specs tells us that Chrome OS does a lot more. Given that a number of hardware manufacturers have climbed on board, Chrome OS will make the desktop obsolete.

    > Linux is a fine OS until you get to the applications - ah, yes... GIMP

    Andrew, what planet have you been living on up to recently. Here are some Linux systems sophisticated enough for even your Mom to find interesting.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Are there really still people out there who think of the PC as a games platform? Get real.

  88. A J Stiles


    "A simple test: if the application, at any stage, requires the user to edit a configuration file with a text editor, you can be 100% certain that it is totally unuseable for normal (non-techie) people."

    I keep hearing things such as this. I can only assume that people think if they tell a lie often enough, it will become true.

  89. John Bailey

    Couple of things

    1) You do know what a NETBOOK is. Small low power PC with just enough welly to do basic stuff.. Video editing on a netbook?? come on. Photoshop? Games?? HD video.. Getting it to play on a netbook would be an achievment. But editing it.. come on.

    2) The usual trolls moaning about compiling stuff. Get some actual current Linux experience under your belts and you will be able to troll far more effectively.

    3) To the guy who was moaning about ISP support. Get a better ISP. I use Orange. I called them twice since I started using Linux. Both times, I mentioned I had Linux, and they skipped the long Windows check the settings and reboot this and reinstall that, and went straight to doing a line check once I verified that i had used a live CD to verify the settings on my PC were not at fault. With a Windows setup, I would have had to spend twenty minutes saying yes to various pointless things before the line check was ordered.

    Linux hasn't failed anywhere. Neither has OSX, or any other OS. They haven't unseated Microsoft as the top dog.. So what. You don't need 100% of the market before you make a profit. They all have users who did something that most Windows users don't do.

    They choose..

    They did more than going to the sales person and saying I want that one there. And walking out with a couple of boxes. Scary eh?

    So scary that Microsoft had to get a carefully focused report on American bricks and mortar sales of netbooks to "prove" that Linux wasn't selling much. Why? Anybody paying attention already knew that Windows was outselling Linux. No surprise.

    So scary that any time there is an article on anybody selling anything with Linux on it that even vaguely resembles a PC, the fanboys and astro turfers come pouring out of the woodwork.

    Looks to me like the job is done. I'll keep using my stable virus free Linux install for most things, and I'm thinking of building a Windows box for gaming end of this year/early next year. So I'll have the best of both worlds. A nice stable rig that doesn't get in my face for the serious stuff, and a gamer rig to use for playing video games. Will the world explode if a Linux computer and a Windows one come closer than five feet to each other.. We will have to wait and see.

    Linux replacing Windows for every knuckle dragging moron who can;t manage something as simple as a virus scanner, doubtful. Linux on appliance type locked down and pre configured hardware. Why the hell not.

  90. Brent Beach

    GM today, MS in 10 years unless

    Like many of the other people commenting here, almost no one I know uses more computing than would apparently be available with the Google OS. Most would be very happy to not have to worry about all the crap on the MS machine. This includes both adults outside the computing environment (regular people) and people in their working lives. Most use just a couple of applications and use a very small percentage of the features in those applications. Having a WORD compatible program that was simple would suit them much better than the hodge podge of stuff in MS Word.

    I think this Google OS, if they do it half well is the beginning of the end of the MS OS. It will take time, but people outside offices will move first, then people inside offices with lower requirements will move next. Enough will move that there are too few remaining power users to justify the monster MS OS churning and that process will gradually die.

    GM today, MS in 10 years, unless they get their head around that people really don't need or want the SUV of OSes.

  91. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  92. Martin Nicholls
    Paris Hilton

    Come on..

    "Think of the old Psion 3 or 5 pocket computer on steroids, offering a lovely QWERTY keyboard for messaging, a screen that's good enough for browsing and a photo album, and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket"

    This has already been done again and again and again, just because the likes of you bang on and on and on about the jesus phone and the pre or whatever marketing hype takes your fancy this week doesn't mean that such phones don't exist.

    Just look at the stuff HTC are pumping out, about 1/3 of their entire product line would fit that description, so would the S/E phone I can't remember the model number of and probably a whole lot more.

    Quit pretending only apple, bb and palm make phones and we won't need to imagine a wonderful world of devices that /could/ exist.

  93. Jimbo 7

    not sure

    Google started Android while back and let's be honest, it sucks. If HTC and other companies would not put nice candy UI on top of it, nobody would even think getting it. It's made by geeks for the geeks.

    I'm mostly Windows user, tiny bit unix/linux. Windows is not easy to understand for novice users, Linux is much worse no matter what you think. That's why OSX is more and more popular.

    I'm still waiting for the super easy to use "forget its there" OS. Moblin is very very close yet still full of bugs. If you look at iPhone, WII, XBOX 360 ... these are very easy to use devices with OS nobody talks about because it just works for what it was designed. I really hope we can see NetbookOS soon. It wont be video editing machine, but browse internet, play media device. If it does the job right, does not throw weird error messages, it's small, cheap and lasts 10+ hours then 70% people on this planet will buy it.

  94. Cyfaill

    Somehow, Linux is not what you described

    I don't quite understand your comments about Linux... Admittedly I have used Debian for a number of years. And Windows is just a distant memory. But what you described about Linux not being top drawer is an error in your experience.

    The Linux Kernel is in fact the largest software development program in computing history.

    Oh, I guess that was a Google, youtube Video, I'm sorry I guess that also means Google is somehow involved in the largest software project on Earth... hum, er, ahem.

    That is not including the user Applications... just the kernel.

    Debian has packaged over 25,000 Applications... I use about 1,800 and they seem to mostly just run (even if I am always using a testing version not written in stone)

    I guess I am just old fashioned and out of touch with such things but a modern Linux from a network install ( I do about 12 a year ) just somehow seems to fall all over itself with trying to just run perfectly with the right hardware. Oh golly, that was sooo hard to do.

    As for the clunky-ness of the Applications, thousands of them... its all a relative thing were the development is in perpetual flux... but given time there will be a tipping point were seemingly, all of a sudden it is going to look like a Platform Juggernaut. It is there now, but most people just don't know it.

    Then one day... sooner that many Windows developers would like. but many more need :) it will cross over the OS sky and blot out the sun with its own light. Yes I use Linux.

    And I am not a developer, I own a company that just uses it. (manufacturing) I know of several more companies that just use it in their manufacturing companies as well... not just grandma.

    Oh, The 12 installs a year... friends and associates that want to use it once the see what it does.

    Bummer. Not one has ever wanted to go back to Windows after the first month of getting use to it. The secret rests on the configuration... done well.

    Give it time... and watch the skies, its heading over the horizon very soon.

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The extent of image processing in the cloud begins and ends with ICanHazCheeseburger. "

    May I suggest a look at Aviary?

    It ain't replacing Photoshop anytime soon (nothing is, ofc), but it's a wee bit beyond ICHC. I'd rather use this than the UI nightmare that is Gimp...

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    I Wanted To Set Up Ubuntu On An Ancient Laptop...

    But couldn't even get it to connect to my wireless router. I inputted the correct SSID, password, set correct protocol - NOTHING - and I'm a software engineer with a computing degree (from back in the day when degrees were hard to get) !!!

    How the Hell then, is joe public going to install and set-up Ubuntu?

    XP Home detected and connected instantly. I just typed in my PSK and off I went. I didn't want XP Home though, as it is a memory hog and my laptop only has 512mb of RAM, but what else could I do?

    Seriously, the only way for Google's OS to dent Microsoft is to make it child's play to setup and use.

    Ubuntu = FAIL (or at least in wireless networking)

  97. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    @ Martin

    >> "Think of the old Psion 3 or 5 pocket computer on steroids, offering a lovely QWERTY keyboard for messaging, a screen that's good enough for browsing and a photo album, and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket"

    This has already been done again and again and again, just because the likes of you bang on and on and on about the jesus phone and the pre or whatever marketing hype takes your fancy this week doesn't mean that such phones don't exist.

    Just look at the stuff HTC are pumping out, about 1/3 of their entire product line would fit that description..."<<<

    No touch-typing, no cigar.

  98. Mr Spoon

    @northern monkey

    Hmm. No, you may be right there. I was sure I'd read it in a quote from a Google employee. Now I can't find that quote. I may have misread, so apologies on that one :)

  99. Trygve

    "Does it run games?" Of course it does.

    " wonder if the Google OS will play The Sims? Or Half-Life 2? Or Crysis? The *other* major branch of domestic PC users are gamers, and unless it has DX10 and comprehensive hardware support to run on the machines required, this PC OS will be pointless to them."

    Pah. Providing it will run PopCap-type games (seems feasible) then that's all it will need to keep the average game player happy. Don't forget that Bejeweled Twist alone has pulled in over $300M so far, and the most played computer games on the planet are probably things like Snake on mobile phones and Solitaire. People like me who piss away hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on dedicated games PCs and tons of high-end games are a tiny tiny tiny part of the computer-using population, just like the tiny handfuls of people who actually do proper video/image editing or programming.

  100. The Other Steve

    Well well

    80+ comments at time of typing, and - as usual for every story that even mentions linux - most of them are from hysterical linux jihadi demonstrating their favourite advocacy/support technique.

    That of communally shouting at anyone who refers to a misfeature of their ideological muse and insisting that said misfeature simply doesn't exist until the complainant suffers an attack of severe cognitive dissonance and goes away.

    It's the wisdom of crowds.

  101. Anonymous Coward


    I had once console games, I've had them for over 20 years. You wonder why I have them no longer, and the answer is simple. Cost.

    Back in the day, there was a console games rental store down the street. So, I would rent a game (either cartdrige or CD) and would play it over a weekend. Generally I would get to the *end* of it. I mean, play it top-bottom looking at every nook-and-cranny. Then I would return it to the store, for a well spent 1$.

    Maybe I would rent it again (the games industry calls it replayability) maybe I would not.

    20 years have gone...

    I went to the store, and compare console games and PC games. Take Need for Speed Pro Street:

    Play Station version $299

    PC version $99

    Guess which one would I buy? What is the justification for such a difference in price? "But all the dosh you spend in the game you don´t spend in the console" WRONG. In the long run, the ultimate graphics card and CPU comes out cheap, since everything else I can do in a PC gets faster as a bonus. That's why I have a 20-pound-brick under my desk, huffing and puffing hot air. No flimsy netbook can cope with such high demands as a good ol' full-tower ATX case. Not to mention it can be on 24/7, if I choose so.

    - I confess, I don´t belong in the 80% people. I need processing power, and GOBS of it. I want to convert my favorite VHS to DVDs, before they rot. Maybe even better, they'll stay on the hard drive permanently.

    - I need software that WORKS, not one that is just FREE. If the free is better, GREAT!

    - I need (eventually) to compile something and some GREP and AWK in the way.

    - I need an old-fashioned 100-T cable, and can´t stand the lag in 3G and what-not-wireless-wifi-gimmick.

    - Maybe I won´t ever run a server at home, but sure as Hell I want the ability to do it.

    - I use Linux AND Windows; I curse their deficiencies, and praise their finest hours, equally.

    - I played Halo on the Xbox, and the gaming pad SUCKS AT IT. Give me a keyboard and mouse any day.

    - Games are still going strong in PC, thank you. Some games have NO FINISH, others take MONTHS to finish.

    What Google is cooking is not for me. It is designed to be mobile, dumbed-down to use, hide its inner workings and answer the hopes and dreams of 80% of the masses. Hip hip hurray for them. Windows was modified to a large extent to answer those people, and produced so far two GARGANTUAN FAILURES, named ME and Vista. It should not happen again.

    Why such impatience to make all things mobile? Do you have any idea? They just want to sell you the same processing power you had 5 years ago, at 3 times cost, in a mobile platform. With (hopefully) 8 hours battery.


    "Uh, my mobile machine has 2GB of memory, so it is faster" BIG EFFING DEAL, the processor is so tiny and has to run so fast (clock-wise), to offset the raw processing power it lacks. Like a lawnmower machine pulling a truck.

    Take my cell phone for instance. Capable of displaying a movie in a TV, taking pictures, and gaming, and filming, and playing music from MP3 and FM. However, it can´t compare to A REAL DVD player, a real Amplifier, and real DSC-camera. It is popular because it is MOBILE, you can BRAG about it, and SHOW IT AROUND.

    The last thing you remember is that it is a PHONE.

    The effing-huge black BELL on my desk is a phone too, and their long-distance calls barely match in quality. What is the point?

    Once again, Google saw an opportunity to make a few bucks, and jumped at it. Who cares they will suck a few kernel ideas from Linux world, a few commonality ideas from Microsoft. God, I hope it works!

    Move along, nothing to see here...

  102. Greg J Preece

    It's called the Athena

    "Think of the old Psion 3 or 5 pocket computer on steroids, offering a lovely QWERTY keyboard for messaging, a screen that's good enough for browsing and a photo album, and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. "

    HTC Athena. Mine's three years old and I kept it over the smartphones available. Annoying OS at times, but it gets the job done.

  103. thomasvanderburg

    Linux Failure? Hardly.

    Considering that Google doesn't want to give Linux any credit for providing a solid foundation for their operating system, I suggest that when Google's new operating system is a flop, you should blame them for the outcome. Still, Google is wise to distance themselves from the Linux brand, based on the types of stereotypes commonly expressed about Linux, and its perceived difficultly of use (as you so eloquently parroted).

    "Another failure for Linux?"

    You've got to be kidding. Ubuntu is more than user friendly enough for moms and grandma's alike. Free software is the future, not software that spies on your usage and phones home.

  104. Graham 6

    Can I bash Linux too?

    Replace the word Linux with Windows and Google with Microsoft and it reads like any other "Microsoft Basher" blog.

    I happen to work on some of the fastest supercomputers and clusters in the world at Schlumberger.

    Guess what they all run..?

    Here's a hint-> it's not windows!!

    And I have a fully supported Linux Desktop as my works PC alongside many others in the company.

    It was the same when I was working in Sony rolling out their new TV platforms and Siemens while they are hosting

    Linux ... dead ... riiight!

    Not from where I am sitting.

    I have and am making a lot of money working solely on Linux systems so who says theres no money it it?

    Microsoft are desperately trying to get a foot into these markets, but don't ever seem to make any progress.

    Heard that somewhere before about Linux and the Desktop?

  105. Mick Sheppard

    Re: Games

    "Are there really still people out there who think of the PC as a games platform? Get real."

    Erm. EA certainly do, witness the recent Sims 3 release. Given that the Sims is a juggernaut of a franchise that hoovers up cash I'd guess that all of the people buying it think that too. There have been predictions of the death of the general purpose PC for many years, its not going to happen anytime soon.

    This is an interesting move by Google in a limited market. Whether it gains any traction will be interesting to see. I have never understood why people gush over the latest announcements from a search engine/advertising company. Maybe its because they use Linux internally and fall into 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' territory.

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