Google Desktop Linux, not Linux Desktop
January 3, 2009 1:30 AM   Subscribe

Google Android is almost ready to run on netbooks.
posted by Dipsomaniac (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a problem with open-source per se, but it is worth remembering that despite being easily the worst major graphical web browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer still comprises about seventy percent of browser use.

When Steve Ballmer says he doesn't view Android as a threat to Windows Mobile? That would be why. If most people aren't willing to switch to a superior web browser (all it takes is a lousy download!), most people definitely aren't going to be willing to switch to a superior mobile operating system.
posted by mightygodking at 1:39 AM on January 3, 2009

Wow, you can run linux on a computer now!? Amazing!
posted by delmoi at 1:52 AM on January 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

mightygodking, no one is expecting ordinary users to swap out their phone's OS. What's Hoped is that cellphone providers will sell devices with Android preloaded. Windows doesn't even have plurality in the cellphone OS market, I don't think. There's real competition there with the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, Nokia/Symbian (also now Open Source). None of them are really "threats" to each other, they're competition. For some reason a lot of software industry observers are unable to process the idea that more then one software product can occupy the same niche. But we don't talk about Toyota "wiping out" Honda or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 2:00 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thank god! We finally have another linux distribution to break the monopoly cartel of ubuntu, xubuntu, eeebuntu, ubuntu-server, slackware, redhat, fedora core, suse, opensuse, knoppix, debian, dynebolic, xandros, gentoo, and mandriva.
posted by davemee at 2:06 AM on January 3, 2009 [11 favorites]

mightygodking: it might also be worth remembering that a decade ago, Microsoft Internet Explorer was easily the best graphical web browser, and was winning marketshare rapidly because of it. IE was massively better than NN4.x — don't let its present morbidity desaturate your view of its rosy youth.
posted by blasdelf at 2:18 AM on January 3, 2009

In their faq they say that every linux app would need to be rewritten to run on android's windowing system. I am pretty sure that this is untrue: my understanding is that most desktop apps use gtk(/gnome) or qt(/kde), and don't directly interface with X at all. Porting gtk and qt to the android graphics server would suffice for making just about every desktop linux app run on android, none of the apps using gtk or kde need to be rewritten, period, unless for some reason porting the app to the android toolkit is easier than porting the gtk and qt libs.
posted by idiopath at 2:31 AM on January 3, 2009

davemee, it's not 'just another Linux distribution' since it only runs Android applications.

This should elicit a "that's neat" rather than "Google is taking on the desktop" response that these articles are seemingly going down. Porting to x86 makes sense as Intel are trying to get into the low-power processor market dominated by ARM, as shown by Atom, and a port is potentially useful for vendors and wasn't particularly difficult to do.

Android is a real threat to Windows Mobile. Android essentially offers a product that's better than Windows Mobile in most ways for no license fee to manufacturers. Whatsmore, Windows Mobile is widely criticised for a long time for being quite poor, Smartphones are still an emerging market and no OS yet dominates the mobile space so very few people are tied down to a single OS. The biggest single Windows Mobile OEM, HTC, has already signed up.

There's very much a comparison to be made with Microsoft and the early years of DOS. Android are making deals with manufacturers to ship their product that undercut everyone else and ensure that software is written for their platform - almost exactly what Microsoft did. Apple are doing what they did back then by keeping complete control of their OS and hardware and not licensing it to other manufacturers despite having arguably better technology. Microsoft are taking the role of CP/M and their ilk - more mature technology, but it doesn't matter when the rival software is cheaper and has all the momentum behind it.
posted by HaloMan at 2:31 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't understand this enough to know if this is cool or if this is meh. If this is just another flavor of Linux, how is it different from, say, Ubuntu, which seems to be the most popular Linux type out now?
posted by zardoz at 2:37 AM on January 3, 2009

The main difference is that it's totally different from other Linux distros in terms of user space. On most Linux distros, you run software designed to run on a standard Linux box, whereas with this you run Java apps written against the Android API.
posted by delmoi at 2:54 AM on January 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

zardoz, what's typically referred to as 'Linux' people actually imply several different things at once. Any operating system has several different levels that make up the software stack. As an example, let's look at Ubuntu.

At the bottom, you have the kernel. The kernel deals with interaction with the processor, switching between tasks and input/output (filesystem, keyboard input etc). In Ubuntu, this is the Linux kernel.

On top of this, you have the basic libraries that provide APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow you to do common tasks in a standard way without dealing with the underlying kernel. On Ubuntu, this is the GNU C Library.

From there, you can write and run applications. Typically, the most useful one is something for a user to interact with. In the olden days it used to be a shell (like the DOS shell or bash). These days people are used to having a graphical interface, so you have another service that abstractly deals with graphics. On Ubuntu is this it the Server. On top of that is built a user interface, which on Ubuntu is GNOME.

When you write an application, although you generally have access to all levels from the kernel upwards, but generally you try and use the highest level that is useful as they abstract away the complexity - although you don't have to.

Now for Android, imagine that everything from the APIs upwards has been completely replaced with something completely different, and on top of that they've built extra layers that only provide certain secure ways of accessing the layers below. So although it's "Linux" as it uses the Linux kernel, it looks and feels completely different to both the user and the programmer. In fact, you could actually remove the Linux kernel and replace it with one that acts similarly and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference - the only reason Linux kernel is used is because it's free, available for many platforms and is quite advanced.
posted by HaloMan at 3:25 AM on January 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

That's nothing.
I put Ubuntu on my iPhone this afternoon. [proof]
posted by seanyboy at 4:53 AM on January 3, 2009 [10 favorites]

Ubuntu Cola!!

mmmm and it's Fairtrade!!!
posted by mannequito at 7:11 AM on January 3, 2009

which reminds me .... will Chrome ever be released for Linux?
posted by mannequito at 7:13 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sweet, now google can index my entire computer usage rather than just internet usage.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 7:39 AM on January 3, 2009

/. - "While I see the utility for phones, I'm not sure that the Android UI as currently implemented would be as flexible as X11 for computer-type applications... On the other hand, it's great for stuff like car GPSs"

OSnews - "In the end, I think it takes less effort to retrofit, say, Ubuntu or OpenSUSE on a netbook than to stretch Android to run on them. Various netbook-specific variants of popular Linux distributions are readily available, so why put time, money, and effort into Android?"

otoh iPhone 3G jailbroken... "in a move that could threaten Apple's carrier partners" (abroad - ars)

oh and hey! Android ported to Nokia N810 - convergence is nigh :P

idle speculation: nokia also bought trolltech, so with LiMo/ubuntu mobile/moblin and android on one side and iPhone and 'WinCE' on the other, i kinda think iPhone has it all by its lonesome unless the linux confederation can get it together or MS makes some grand bargain with the carriers when the apple/AT&T union runs out... (none of which matters, of course, if the FCC manages to complete its 'end around' the carriers ;)

posted by kliuless at 8:19 AM on January 3, 2009

My wife bought me a G1 for Christmas and I still can't get over how easy, fast, and, well, rad Android is.
posted by Bageena at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2009

The Asus screen size is approximately 5 times bigger than the G1 screen. An adaption of the screen size was not an issue as Android did the adaption automatically.

Apparently by making everything really big? That locale chooser looks like someone scaled up an iPhone screen to 10".
posted by smackfu at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It seems like most people don't buy a smartphone for Windows Mobile or any other OS, no? If that's true, Android's biggest challenge is winning over manufacturers.

The same could be said for netbooks, which are basically billed as the Internet out of the box.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:55 AM on January 3, 2009

According to a notorious stat people may not buy netbooks for the OS but they do return them because of the OS.

The appeal of Linux for netbooks is not (mostly) Linux. It's cost and performance modulated by the fact that netbooks are going to be used in a more limited way by most purchasers. Unfortunately Linux is failing to meet even this limited bar for the non-nerd-switcher. Android on a netbook would be a UI reboot which is sorely needed.
posted by Wood at 10:35 AM on January 3, 2009

Yes Android is built on top of Linux. And the iPhone's operating system is built on top of Unix. But no one would call the iPhone a Unix machine.

As the saying goes, follow the money:
Android is designed to work with Google apps. You don't need a powerful machine, because apps are all running on Google's servers. Google makes money offering free services the way the old fashioned over-the-air television did: by offering targeted advertising to companies. And like television, the more eyes on their services, the more they can charge advertisers.

The cell phone operating systems weren't linking to Google's services as much as Google wanted, so they came out with Android and offered it for free. It only makes sense that they would try to extend its reach to other devices like netbooks, where it seems like a natural fit.

There are a number of companies supposedly coming out with Newton/netbook type internet connected devices. It only makes sense that Google would go after this market too. I've heard rumors of a WiMax connected Android device. 2009 should be an interesting year for these types of devices.
posted by eye of newt at 11:05 AM on January 3, 2009

My big question is: will it keep the kill switch for every app, based on Google's discretion? If so, this kind of makes Android the most anti-freedom OS ever, since everything becomes sort of like 'trusted code' or whatnot.
posted by tmcw at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2009

My big question is: will it keep the kill switch for every app, based on Google's discretion? If so, this kind of makes Android the most anti-freedom OS ever, since everything becomes sort of like 'trusted code' or whatnot.

Crucially, only every app purchased through the Android Market. You are free to download and run whatever app you like outside of that. So if you purchase from the vendor that promises to remove apps if they are malicious, they will remove them. I'd more say it's an optional free service, it's not equivalent to the Apple App Store as you can route around it and install whatever you wish.

And I say that as an FSF person; don't think that I'm not suspicious of things designed to kill my freedom. But I'm very happy with my Dev Phone 1.
posted by jaduncan at 11:44 AM on January 3, 2009

@tmcw @jaduncan

Besides the killswitch only affecting apps from the Android Market, the actually underlying software (Android itself) is open source so anyone who wanted could fork it and remove any killswitch functionality.

Although, you wouldn't (as far as I know) be able to run this new Android variant on a G1, but you can unlocked dev phones from Google where you can run anything you damn please.
posted by sideshow at 2:35 PM on January 3, 2009

This is only the beginning.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 2:50 PM on January 3, 2009

Wait, didn't the Asus EEE PC _already_ run Linux? What's new here, except for the fact that you can now run J2ME apps exclusively on the netbook?
posted by the cydonian at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2009

Superior OSes don't even sell computers, and people think they'll sell phones?

Buyers don't care.
posted by rokusan at 9:14 PM on January 3, 2009

This is almost a good FPP.
posted by Eideteker at 9:47 PM on January 3, 2009

I don't know how all that shit works, but God Bless you nerds for making all our lives easier.
posted by V4V at 11:33 AM on January 5, 2009

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