Will the latest Ubuntu distro finally provide a mainstream Windows alternative?

Will the latest Ubuntu distro finally provide a mainstream Windows alternative?

Summary: It remains to be seen if any tier one OEMs will give Ubuntu (or any other distro, for that matter) the boost it needs to promote widespread adoption.


Long hampered by driver issues (especially surrounding wireless networking), Linux has failed to take off in mainstream markets.  Ubuntu (and its Kubuntu and Edubuntu brethren) have had more success than most owing to their easy installs and smart interfaces.  April 19th marks the release date for the latest and greatest Ubuntu, version 7.04.  According to ubuntu.com,

"Ubuntu 7.04 desktop edition includes a ground-breaking Windows migration assistant, excellent wireless networking support and improved multimedia support.

Ubuntu 7.04 server edition adds support for hardware facilities that speed up the use of virtual machines as well as other improved hardware support, making it an excellent choice as a web, database, file and print server, the fastest growing area of Linux server use. Ubuntu's already outstanding support for thin clients is boosted with advanced print and sound support."

It remains to be seen if any tier one OEMs will give Ubuntu (or any other distro, for that matter) the boost it needs to promote widespread adoption.  However, with XP support going away in early 2008, now is the time for schools to begin planning for OS migrations (if this hasn't already begun).  While early experiences with Vista have been largely positive, if Ubuntu can deliver on its promises of effortlessness, and adequate educational software can continue to be ported to Linux, then it may become a much more viable alternative for those outside the current, relatively small band of Linux devotees.  I already have a spare partition on my laptop ready to check out those built-in wireless drivers.

Topics: Linux, Networking, Open Source, Servers, Wi-Fi, Windows

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Ubuntu 7.04 is Linux for dummies!

    Ubuntu 7.04 is Linux for dummies. I already have the b?ta of Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn on my notebook for a couple of weeks.

    Wireless connection to the internet is easier than ever, with Network Manager in the standard installation.

    Also installing multimedia codecs is a cinch now. A few mouseclicks, that is all it takes. Same with installing the factory driver for my video card.

    Ubuntu 7.04 robs me of my computer wizard halo, I fear: it is simply far too easy.... :-)

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    • since november

      I've been using Feisty Fawn since November (herd2).
      Its the best OS that I've ever used (just a small note on how fast DSL [Dawm Small Linux] is).

      Cant wait untill the next version comes out: Gutsy
      That seems to be the ground breaking with everything else.
    • Linux for dummies is just what we need...

      To go mainstream, it needs to be a complete piece of cake. If Mac could bring their prices down, the utter ease of use would be enough to gain a lot of marketshare - the same should certainly go for Linux, although I maintain that OEM support really needs to appear as well.

      • Mac COULD, but won't;

        but you are right, they'd sell a ton of 'em.
      • To be mainstream requires more than that

        If linux were to develop and evolve into a single OS, a perfect OS and totally flawless, it, like Mac or Unix would still not be the major mainstream OS although it would gain a huge number of supporters. The biggest problem with all "NON" Window operating systems regardless of platform or distro is the lack of hardware and software support. Hardware vendors would have to develop the same amount of drivers for Linux, Unix or Mac to get any of these Operating Systems nearer to Windows. Assuming they did, it would still have to get ALL the software developers to offer the same software that is available and compatible with MS Windows. These are the two stopping blocks that prevent any of these OS's from becoming the mainstream OS. What has to occur to change the mainstream from MS Windows is the number of OS supporters. If China's home and business were to buy and use PC's based on a single version of Linux as China's government has done, then that would be enough to give Linux a serious chance at becoming a mainstream OS. The govenment of France and other European governments have also gone to Linux but keep in mind this is not enough to warrant most developers into writing software for Linux. It takes time for things to change and a lot of occurrences to alter them and although it may be a long way off, linux, Mac, Windows, Unix and perhaps others yet to come will be around long after I will have a need for them.
        • An old tired and invalid argument

          At the moment some hardware manufacturers do release Linux drivers, others have open sourced their driver code and or APIs (usually the Mozilla license or BSD one). (HP, nVidia and ATI come to mind.) Open sourcing the APIs, for example means that drivers get faster to "market".

          Remember that drivers are kernel modules, plug ins if you like and as long as that part of the kernel architecture doesn't change there's no need for a new driver with each release of the kernel. (Unlike Windows.) So a driver that works with Ubuntu will work with Mandriva, will work with Red Hat, will work with Red Flag (China's official distro), will work with SuSE...

          As for software it's also becoming routine to release Windows versions and Linux versions of open source apps at the same time.

          You are right in that numbers do drive some of this. So does the good old open source idea of scratching an itch to get something to work.

          When you're wrong, you're wrong and you are on this one.


    • even Dapper is pretty darn close...

      I've been using Kubuntu Dapper since august/september, and while it leaves my halo intact, I'll come off the cloud and admit it is easier than windows in most ways... I'm looking forward to Feisty eagerly, since the school year is practically over, and I can play with my laptop without concern for lost data once more ^_^
    • Sounds like it might work for all Non guru's

      Great to hear, I know I never had any problems with an earlier version which was from a Ubuntu live cd but I found it wasn't as complete an OS as I'd like it to be. Not sure about this newer version. There are times I wish I knew a lot more than I do with all the OS's out there but it's much like knowing there are a lot of books out there yet to be read. I might never get a chance to read them all but glad to know they're out there. I'm not far off the mark for qualifying for a Linux dummy certificate but I do know I like some versions of Linux as much as my favourite books.
  • PCLinuxOS is easy to use NOW out of the box

    [i]Long hampered by driver issues (especially surrounding wireless networking)[/i]

    My wireless LinkSys WMP55AG PCI card and WPC55AG notebook card both worked instantly and flawlessly out of the box with PCLinuxOS. The Atheros chipset - used by many wireless cards - is well supported by PCLinuxOS. Both the above named cards are available right now on eBay at modest prices.

    The two reasons Linux isn't taking off very readily are firstly that it isn't pre-installed on PCs at CompUSA etc, and secondly that it isn't backed by hundreds of million$ in advertising budget. Other than that it's a good full-featured OS, especially PCLinuxOS. Ubuntu is over-hyped - sure it's good, but it's no better than PCLinuxOS.

    If you're a Windows user and you need totally safe surfing, a dual-boot XP/PCLinuxOS box is definitely the answer. My 4 Dells all run PCLOS just fine - 3 desktops and 1 lappy. I run XP in VirtualBox on two of them for those must-have Win apps like McMedia. The Win partitions are NEVER, EVER allowed on the web - and because of that have no security software (so they run fast). As for the Linux, well... malware and viruses bounce off Linux like butterflies bounce off a tank.
    Don Collins
    • Assumes distro not in evidence

      I went looking for PCLinuxOS for a cousin and it seems they're having problems. Have they resurfaced?
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • bw prob

        its not a development problem, but a popularity problem.
        It out grown it server capacity, and ppl couldn't reach them.
        Hope they can now handle better with those new servers.

        Ubuntu wins this battle, because they are mirrored all around the world together with Debian/Red Hat(fedora) mirrors
      • pclinuxos.com is up

        http://www.pclinuxos.com/ is working again; they're just having growing pains :)
      • Not sure as most linux versions are off shelves

        I'm not sure what's up with PClinuxOS as I haven't read or heard anything that would give me the impression they were having problems although I think every OS out there has some kind of problems. You may want to check online to see where it's available as I know most versions of Linux are not available at retailers in the area that I live. I bought a few versions of Linux, SuSE was from a University book store, Ubuntu Live CD from a website software supplier but Xandros Business Edition 3.0 was from Tiger Direct and my last purchase was Xandros Professional 4.01 which was an upgrade directly from Xandros online. Sorry for not being much help as I've hear that version is a nice version of Linux, I just haven't tried it yet.
    • BAH!!!

      the real reason it hasn't taken off is that there is no "linux". there are umpteenmillion different flavors and versions, FAR too many for the average consumer to contemplate when they go looking for a computer so that they can check their email.

      there is no LINUX, there's dozens of different distros. there is only one WINDOWS, ONE version, xp, or now vista. the most you have to decide upon is whether you want to shell out for "ultimate" or not. THAT's IT.

      the average user's eyes glaze over as soon as a pc tech starts talking linux distro's, they dont want all that crap, they just want the computer to work.

      this will be the main problem with linux until one or maybe two rise above all the others in the consumer market. when the consumer can go to best buy and ask for "linux" and be handed ONE box, then you'll have something, until then it'll remain in the background.

      Valis Enterprises
      Valis Keogh
      • yeah right

        yeah right. when right about then the "one linux" decides to increase the price of their software due to having the newfound monopoly, walking in microsoft's footsteps.

        besides, i believe the linux developers share code with each other since it's the open source philosophy.
        • so do you want mass linux adoption or not?

          i wouldn't think that you SHOULD want mass linux adoption, because that means having to walk in ms's footsteps.

          the AMAZING thing?!?! people are whining that linux isn't being adopted quickly because distributors like gateway and dell aren't pre-packaging it.

          ... the same thing they whine about MS doing...

          Valis Keogh
          • Not

            I have learned enough of monoculture watching Windows malware dominate its market.
            When (or if) HP decides to install only SUSE, or Dell decides to pre-onstall Fedora, or Lenevo decodes to install Ubuntu, I am sure to install Debian (or something completely different) just because some malware authors might have a grudge against HP or Dell or Lenevo.
            Thank God there is not ever going to be another software monoculture for malware authors to write to.
          • No guarantee of no more monopolies

            Just because there are a myriad of a variants of a minor OS around now does not guarantee that monopolies are banished forever.

            Market forces oftem shake out too many variations and these current OSs based on decades-old technology might just not be enough if some quantum leaps are made in computer design.

            Some still continue to believe in the 'Great White Hope' that will deliver them from the 'evil' that threatens to control the computer world.
          • Monopoly

            "people are whining that linux isn't being adopted quickly because distributors like gateway and dell aren't pre-packaging it. ... the same thing they whine about MS doing..."

            A computer without an OS is basically a very expensive brick.

            Therefore it needs an OS.

            Installing an OS is not something average people do; consider that most people have never installed Windows by themselves, but rather had it preloaded for them.

            Therefore the OS needs to be preloaded.

            What is being asked is to offer consumers a choice of OSs; right now if you go to any of the 'tier 1' computer manufacturers, you can get... Windows.

            Its like going to a soda machine and being offered Coca Cola; sure you have a choice: Coke Classic, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke or Lime Coke. And sure you have a choice of vendors; but all the other machines also sell Coke. If you don't want Coke, but rather, want Mountain Dew, that might be a problem...

            I do not want to have to buy a computer and then wipe the HD, wasting my money on a Windows license I won't use and don't want (I do not want to pay the 'Microsoft Tax') to install Linux and hope that the hardware that was selected for and tested in Windows will run OK.

            It would only be 'walking in the footsteps of MS' if we then strongarmed the OEMs into not preloading the software of our competitors (you know, ILLEGAL antitrust violations, that sort of thing).
          • Well put!

            Agreed. I don't think anybody whines about Windows being preinstalled, it's the baggage that comes with it.

            If there were a viable Linux alternative, that would tend to cut out a lot of anticompetitive foolishness on everyone's part.