The Linux desktop, thanks to Chromebooks, goes retail

The Linux desktop, thanks to Chromebooks, goes retail

Summary: Thanks to Google and the Chromebook, the Linux desktop is getting its chance to make a retail come-back.


Start looking now for Google Chromebooks at your local retailers.

Start looking now for Google Chromebooks at your local retailers.

At Google I/O , Google's Senior VP of Chrome and Apps, Sundar Pichaihasm announced that Samsung's Series 3 Chromebox and Series 5 Chromebook will soon be available in Best Buy stores in the US and Dixons in the UK.

Contrary to what some people are saying, this is far from the first time that Linux-powered PCs have been sold by major retailers. Back in 2008, Best Buy, Sears, and Wal-Mart were all selling Linux desktops. These were all netbooks—low-powered, low-priced laptops. At the time, Microsoft was still trying to talk people into using Vista and people hated Vista.

Microsoft eventually realized that no one was buying Vista at the low-end, and darn few people at at any end really, and so they brought back Windows XP Home in the end of 2008. Microsoft followed this up by selling XP Home at below cost to original equipment manufacturers to kill off the Linux netbook market. Microsoft was successful. By May 2010, ASUS, which had been desktop Linux's biggest OEM supporter, quietly abandoned the Linux netbook.

That was in 2008. This is 2012.

Google is a much bigger player than gOS, Linspire or Xandros, the leading netbook desktop Linux distributors of the netbook day. In addition, none of Microsoft's PC partners then wanted to fight with their biggest partner.

In recent weeks, Microsoft has betrayed its partners. And, like Vista before it, Windows 8 is an operating system that even Microsoft's biggest fans are having trouble loving it.

Chromebooks aren't just for the retail market . Other companies, like Pano Logic, are offering Chrome PCs to business customers.

You might wonder how a Linux, cloud-based system like the Chromebook's Chrome OS can really find a consumer or business market since it requires you to be online. Well, you see, Chrome OS doesn't need to an Internet connection to work now.

You've long been able to use Google Mail offline and, as of today, the word processing side of Google Docs can work off-line. Google also said that its other office-suite services, such as Google Presentations and Spreadsheets will soon be available off-line as well. Last, but by no means least, Google Drive has also been extended to Chrome OS. That means anything you store on your cloud drive will also be available on your off-line Chromebook.

In short, Chrome OS, and Chromebooks, are transforming from Linux-based, thin-client systems to full competitors with Windows systems. Would that be enough to get people to switch if their main choice was their pick of Windows 7 PCs? Probably not. But, when your choice will be Windows 8 systems, well, like Vista before it showed, customers may prove to not be that loyal to Microsoft after all.

Related Stories:

Has Microsoft opened the door to the Linux desktop? Windows 8's downfall still doesn't give Linux a chance Pano Logic in Google Chrome 'zero-client' business pitch Microsoft: The Evil Empire re-Surfaces The new Chromebooks rock and cr-48 owners will have less to envy in a month

Topics: Hardware, Google, Linux, Microsoft, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • *yawn*

    I guess if Microsoft is as evil as you say it is it will issue some new Windows XP laptops with Office Starter edition. After all, according to your comments about the death of the linux netbooks, a 12 year old operating system is superior to a "modern" Open Source alternative.
    Your Non Advocate
    • Don't normally respond to trolls, but just this once...

      Loverock has earned his stripes. He's actually clever sometimes. And I wouldn't be surprised to see him someday unmasked as a FOSS proponent with a keen sense of humor and irony.

      You, however, are an extremely poor substitute, you are like a poor, sad zit-faced thirteen-year-old who envies his older brother and tries to act like him, forgetting that he has more body mass, more brains, and an actual imagination.

      Nope, you're just a poor, sad little man who likes getting his tiny bit of attention by going to a pro-FOSS blog and yelling intelligent things like "Linux sux!"

      Putting you permanently on ignore now, "facebook." Maybe someday a real life will come along for you...
      • Let me know what you fail to understand and I will try to help you out

        SJVN stated that Microsoft dusted off an old product and was able to decimate the netbook market. That is not being a troll, but a summation of his own comments. He then further stated that, somehow, Google is going to be successful by offering something with even less functionality than a netbook and it will be successful as long as the mean old Microsoft does not go back and get their XP backup disk from storage.
        Your Non Advocate
    • Why do you come to this blog?

      Do you have nothing better to do with your time?
    • 12 year old OS ...

      The technology behind Linux dates back to the late 1960's ... and it is STILL more secure, out of the box, than ANYTHING Microsoft has brought out since MS Xenix (and that was Unix Sys III).

      Every day you touch Linux .. TV, phone, cars, planes, appliances, network gear, Google, Amazon, weather service, armed forces, wall street .. and you never know it.

      Linux, like any good appliance, is ENTIRELY IGNORABLE.
  • I bet....

    ... That Windows 8 PCs will outsell these Chromebooks on any given day. Especially, once Surface launches. The market rejected them at launch, not sure why that would be any different than now. Besides, Microsoft shouldn't be the target. Macbooks will still outsell this thing too.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Sure they will...

      ...outsell Chromebooks - not the point. It's an alternative to Win and MacOS, that's it. And it's an alternative that can do 80% of what Windows does. That's good enough for most.
      • That's the point.

        An alternative to Windows is the Mac. Chrome just doesn't have an eco system to support it. And no, web apps don't count.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • The Mac

        Is not an alternative to Windows.

        Simply because the Mac is hardware and Windows is software. Many people run Windows on Macs.

        The Mac however is the better platform than the IBM PC.

        It is good that users have more OS and platform choices. The sad thing is, that this is happening for Linux via Google and their spyware platform.
        • "The Mac however is the better platform than the IBM PC."

          How so? The Mac is now nothing more than a rebadged IBM compatible PC and usually a bottom rung one at that.
      • Money talks

        If these ChromeBooks were much, much cheaper than Mac and Wintel, Google could take a impressive slice of markets. It's little bit funny to read replies like those of "Cylon Centurion". They are mainly just western echos from period of 1990's when world was dominated by lousy Windows, expensive, insecure and unstable ecosystem by Microsoft. Those days are fading away. The change is coming from developing 3rd world countries. Old and tired western world have to adjust to future of IT. Perhaps even "Cylon Centurion" someday may realize this change.
      • The problem is...

        it is cheaper to buy a Windows laptop and install the Chrome browser on it, than it is to buy a Chromebook at the moment. Why would I want to spend more for less?

        ChromeOS might be built upon a Linux base, but it is still very restricted.

        I'll just buy from Linux laptop suppliers, there are enough of them around.
        • RE: The problem is...

          Actually, you will spend less on Chromebook hardware than on a Win8 netbook, and you will not have to pay extra for new operating system features, because the OS is free to begin with. Microsoft charges hundreds of dollars every time a new version is introduced. I've updated my Chromebook with new features 3 times and I haven't paid a cent. Plus MS costs more to manage in the long run, which, over time, adds up to more money spent.
          Richard Estes
      • Ecosystem Exists

        @Cyon Centurion,
        Google's App Script is a full development environment connected to Google Drive and all other Google properties, with push-button publishing to the the Chrome Marketplace. Just because "web apps don't count" doesn't make that an ecosystem. NaCl is rolling out, too, by the way.

        You can't just stick your fingers in your ears and scream "La la la. I'm not listening to you." Reality doesn't work that way.
  • I wish people would stop comparing 8 and Vista

    They're two entirely different problems. Vista had unarguable flaws. Driver support wasn't ready. OEMs sold systems without enough resources to go beyond anything but a crawl. UAC activated every time you looked at it funny. For all the complaints about Windows 8, none of them are actually technical flaws. There is no arguing that Vista (On release, anyways. It's actually quite a good OS right now) was a trainwreck, but all of the complaints about 8 can be categorized as opinion. Lots of people hate Metro, but lots of people also love it.

    Also, I don't know if I really consider ChromeOS to be Linux any more than I'd say the Kindle Fire runs Android. Sure, they're both technically correct, but its been modified so much that its not really any benefit to its parent.
    • Doesn't matter if Windows 8 and Vista flaws are different.

      If they're usability flaws - result will be the same.
      I'm really curious how average user will react to Win 8 - sure, there is a chance it'll be huge commercial success. Not something i would bet on, but there is a chance...
    • They are not the same, indeed

      With Vista, everyone was overly excited because Microsoft has promised too many to good things. Sane people knew it's too good to be true. But the real disaster happened when Vista actually shipped. And it turned out that, amongst other things, it's hardware requirements are nothing like Microsoft claimed.

      Windows 8 on the other hand is more or less already demonstrated. The difference with Vista is that even before Windows 8 is released, large part of the Windows-using population is already unhappy with it. Even if Microsoft delivers what they promised (highly unlikely), it will be flop, simply because many do not like what is promised.
      • Many don't like it...

        but many more do. The only negative comments I see about Windows 8 are uninformed opinions. It actually has a much better workflow for both touch and keyboard/mouse.
    • Hardly anyone loves ugly things like Metro/Lumia

      You're right - people should not compare Windows Vista and Windows 8 Metro. Vista was sucking but it was step to better security and it had fine user interface. But Metro is different. It's ugly, it's confusing, it doesn't fascinate at all. You have to be hard core Windows zealot to love it.

      Just take a look at photos of Metro/Lumia and Android-devices. Have you noticed how beautiful these Android smartphone/tablets are. Then compare thme the scene of ugly Lumia/Metro.
      • Objection! Heresay! (Sorry, watching too much court drama on tv just now)

        Come on! In your opinion and across your own sphere of friends & collegues that may possibly be true but get some data behind it to make me believe your 'anyone' control group.

        I like it, in fact I think its one of the freshest interfaces out in comparison to the current desktop icon/widget culture thats been around for decades. And before you start, yes it's been around for decades because its worked but that does'nt mean it can't be improved.

        Remember Microsoft isn't the only one rocking the GUI boat as not in the too distant past Canonical made a huge move from Gnome to Unity. It got bad press too and cost them a fraction of their user base but they recognised the need for change and I think they were right. I like Unity too, little bit too big and clunky for my liking but again, better than the dektop icon/widget culture of our past. Even Apple are changing the desktop culture with their new iPad looking sidebar thingy(not a big Apple fan and never used OS/x). Changes are needed, changes are coming, Microsoft is along for the ride and I for one am happy they are as nothing drives innovation like competition!