How many distros can a healthy netbook market stand?

There are two ways to address this problem, consolidation among distros in the consumer space or a consensus among consumer distros on how they will add software.

SUSE vs. Ubuntu logos
One thing I have learned in covering Linux laptops is that your distro matters.

It's because your distro makes such a difference that a netbook's entire software bundle is key to its success -- what you see is truly going to be what you get.

Over the years a bunch of folks have sold manufacturers on the wisdom of their distros for desktop use.

The Asus unit I last reviewed ran Xandros. Others run Debian. Apricot tried SUSE, and the new Dell Inspiron Mini runs Ubuntu. Last year Dell tried Red Hat.

But those problems adding software add up to one big headache. Each distro does this in its own way. Each application supporting Linux must have packages supporting multiple distros. (Picture from the Suseblog.)

I don't think this is much of a problem in the server space, where people are dedicated to learning the ins and outs of their operating system and the command line is your friend.

It is obviously a huge problem, a continuing problem, in the consumer space, where the large number of distros are leading to consumer confusion. (I'm a consumer and I'm confused. Chances are others are, too.)

There are two ways to address this problem:

  1. Consolidation among distros in the consumer space.
  2. A consensus among consumer distros on how they will add software.

All this is complicated somewhat by the continuing KDE vs. GNOME difference. Both have their advocates and advantages. KDE is prettier, GNOME lighter. If they weren't focusing on the same markets life would be easier.

I have long been a fan of Ubuntu as a desktop Linux, if for no other reason than Canonical concentrates hard on the market and works to find solutions.

But what do you think? [poll id=92]

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