How much do desktops matter?

It's obvious that the only way to achieve device unity is online. One operating system is not going to bind our futures. You may choose to live in a Windows world, but each part of that world must compete with components running something else.

Do desktops matter?

Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation insists they don't. (The picture is from Terry Jones' wonderful "flying penguins" ad for the BBC.)

As he explained to me during CompuTex, people are more focused today on connectivity and applications.

Microsoft's dominance of the desktop no longer gives it control over whether or not you run open source, and it is merely competitive on the new platforms of the Web and phones.

Thus, he would argue, when our own Adrian Kingsley-Hughes asks, "could you switch over to being 100% open source" we may be asking the wrong question.

We're all a lot more open source than we were, in part because we're a lot less wedded to our desks.

This desktop still runs Windows, but most of its applications are open source -- The Gimp, Open Office, Thunderbird, Google Chrome. Give me the right stick and the netbook I took to China will belong to the penguin.

Meanwhile I define my life more-and-more by online resources, less and less by what's on my desk. What is most remarkable about my netbook is how it constantly seeks open WiFi connections. The netbook computing experience is defined by being online.

Bing may be on Windows, but does that matter? I'm writing this post on WordPress, not Linux, and I'm looking up links using Google, not Linux. When you're online no one knows if your OS is a dog.

Much of Linux's success has been in the fact that, in an online world, it's invisible or, to put it another way, transparent. This transparency is a key open source value. Transparency gives Zemlin hope that phones will run open source operating systems like Moblin or Android. But will those users even know they're running Linux?

The biggest computing job today is fitting all these pieces into a coherent computing experience. Right now people remain wedded to a device. It's a desktop in my case, but in Japan it's often a mobile phone, and increasingly an iPhone. For some people it's an iPod or Kindle.  

It's obvious that the only way to achieve device unity is online. One operating system is not going to bind our futures. You may choose to live in a Windows world, but each part of that world must compete with components running something else.

So where do you live your computing life? [poll=104]

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