I’ll have the #3 Value Meal, Super Size, with an order of Linux

I’ll have the #3 Value Meal, Super Size, with an order of Linux

Summary: With the news that Best Buy will now be selling boxed, commercially supported versions of Ubuntu, the Desktop Linux onslaught begins. Our ultimate goal of Total World Domination will soon be within our grasp, now that yet another mondo-huge retailer has jumped on the Linux bandwagon.

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mcbuntu.JPGWith the news that Best Buy will now be selling boxed, commercially supported versions of Ubuntu, the Desktop Linux onslaught begins. Our ultimate goal of Total World Domination will soon be within our grasp, now that yet another mondo-huge retailer has jumped on the Linux bandwagon.

Or will it?

Certainly, I think getting Ubuntu and other Linux distributions into the mass retail channel are important. Many people want a box and a manual, with a phone number they can call if they have problems. And this is great -- it will attract a bunch of new users that we didn't have before. But I think it would pale in comparison if Canonical were to approach huge companies that have universal brand identity with the potential of using Ubuntu as a viral marketing tool.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Ubuntu already makes a great Live CD, and its proven to be an effective, painless way of introducing people to the OS. Once booted and tested out, people can then make the choice of whether or not they want to install it on their system. We've also seen how easy it is to "spin" new re-mixes of Ubuntu, with the various 3rd-party "editions" floating around, such as Linux Mint, Christian Edition, Muslim Edition, and my personal favorite, Satanic Edition. I've even seen some stuff on Jewish Ubuntu (Oy!) although I am not sure it's been launched yet. If you've got special content you want to include in a Linux distro, Ubuntu is an ideal vehicle for it.

So if a religious denomination can spin Ubuntu, why not McDonald's? Burger King? Coca-Cola? Pepsi? Taco Bell? Crispy Creme? Dunkin' Donuts? Starbucks? NBC? CBS? Sony Pictures?  Mercedes-Benz? Porsche? Eddie Bauer? Playboy? Esquire? Rachael Ray? Barbie? The New York Yankees? The NBA? NASCAR? Star Trek? American Idol? The Democrats? The Republicans? Marvel Comics? Disney? Bueller? Okay, you get it.

Obviously, it does take considerable skill to re-mix a Linux distribution, even if in most cases, you're just adding a few new packages, replacing bitmaps and screen savers, creating custom icons, and pre-loading image, video, audio files, toolbars and custom bookmarks and such. Microsoft had the right idea in this direction when they released the SDKs for Windows Themes and the Internet Explorer Administration Kit  -- but this would take things even further by being able to brand an entire computing experience for the customer. I mean, just think of the promotional possibilities that any of the big names I mentioned above could do with their own customized OS they could give out at retail locations or bundled with products.

Right now, the process of producing a "re-spin" is very much a manual process with Linux distros. While Canonical hasn't created a "Ubuntu Remix" SDK or hosted web site for Live CD customization, Novell is starting to build the kind of tools needed to make a custom OpenSUSE distro with SUSE Studio which is currently in limited Alpha testing.

Another neat site is Custom NimbleX, a specialized distro from Taiwan that takes more of the Chinese restaurant approach -- "Choose one from column A and one from column B" for package selection rather than being able to add custom content beyond just wallpaper. Despite its limitations, however, the DHTML GUI that Custom NimbleX employs is one of the coolest things I have ever seen a web site do without using Flash.

Ideally, I'd like to see some combination of both sites and a granular approach to changing the appearance and adding in new content.

Brand loyalty may be the next big thing for Linux distributions. Which custom branded Linux would you like to see? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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Talkback

92 comments
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  • Plagiarism, Jason? :-)

    Exactly my thoughts, in a Talkback some time ago:

    http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-10535-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=46338&messageID=858549&start=0

    Greeting, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • In all seriousness, ZDNet bloggers...

      do that quite frequently. Take someone else's talkback and pretend they came up with the idea. I'm not trying to be obno but this is a common occurrence. Some of the bloggers will actually give credit and mention the particular post. But most don't.
      bjbrock
      • What better way to "Spotlight" your view...

        If someone took my comments and made an article out of it I really don't care if I am given credit for having commented on it.

        The bigger picture is that your opinion is now out of the comments area, those comments are being taken seriously and for all to see.

        Who loses out on that?

        *Also I'll bet if you read the fine print in the registration you will see that the publisher reserves the right to reuse you comments in future articles an/or reprints.
        dunn@...
    • Re: Plagiarism???

      Getting an idea from something you've seen or heard isn't plagiarism. Retelling a story you own way has been done for centuries. Do you truly think the idea of a McDonalds Linux was yours originally Pjotr?
      khess
      • Didn't you notice the smiley?

        If I was making an accusation in earnest, there would have been no smiley in the subject line...

        However, I couldn't resist the temptation to point out that my idea predated Jason's, here on ZDnet. With a catchy subject line, in conformity with Jason's usual sharp way of formulating.
        pjotr123
        • Who'd you steal it from? ;)

          Branded Linux is an idea from the 90's. I wrote about it back then. Did you steal it from me? ;)
          daengbo
      • He put the smiley face to indicate he was just joking.

        But, ZDNet DOES get ideas from talkback posters. That is an important part of ZDNet - getting the readers talking.
        DonnieBoy
  • Planet Diets

    You forgot to mean the lean but mean Mars Ubuntu, and of
    course the sweet Venus Ubuntu versions just to get back to
    the basic meal plan. Other Alien planet versions are in the
    works.
    dascha1
  • Didn't Wallmart just Drop Linux?

    I thought I read recently Wallmart had dropped its line of Linux based PCs? Seems no one was buying them. I have used the latest Ubuntu (and openSuse), and am not sure why someone, other than a *nix fan, would buy them. Unless Best Buy is selling cheapo computers that needed an OS. My guess, it won't last more than a year. Wait until those newbee home users wants to install an application on their new Linux PC. Ha!
    jpr75_z
    • Walmart is now selling an upgraded version with Linux, still $199.

      http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=8304655

      But, Walmart never created a self branded version of Linux that Jason is talking about here. These come with gOS, which is based on Ubuntu.
      DonnieBoy
    • And, for bargain hunters, they are closing out the previous model for $150.

      http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=7754614
      DonnieBoy
    • They didn't

      They simply removed them from the stores which is a move that no one understands because the units flew off the shelves and they couldn't keep them stocked.

      When the noob home user goes to install an app they'll be pleasantly surprised by all the apps right there in the Add/Remove menu. I'm not sure what retarded way you tried to install one. *shrugs*
      storm14k
      • I'm not sure what retarded way you tried to install one.

        ...It was a windoze app.....
        nwoodson@...
      • To Be Fair, Installing Apps on Ubuntu CAN Be Daunting to a Newbie

        Which is what I am when it comes to Linux, though I'm getting enough out of Ubuntu and Xandros which comes on my EEE PC to stick w/it.

        OTOH, my concerns remain - easy-to-set up WPA wifi (which Ubuntu still doesn't really have unless you're sure you have the right adapters - and there's no list I've found where I can find which those are)...and, yeah, honest-to-gosh Apple-approved iTunes.

        Mock and scoff if you must, but those two apps are the biggest stumbling blocks I've found to getting friends, families and charities to take older PCs w/Ubuntu on them. They want secure wifi that works out of the box (no NDISWRAPPER command line hackery), and they don't want any "it works just like iTunes", they want iTunes period b/c they've usually got a buttload of songs they've bought there.
        drprodny
    • No...

      Walmart still sells Linux based PCs, only online.

      Newbee home users shouldn't have any difficulties installing an application, as long as they know that they are not using a Windows PC and that some Windows based applications will not work on Linux. The same can be said about when someone buys a Mac. Besides if someone is looking for a Windows based PC, I'm sure they will not purchase a Linux PC.Those who do buy a Linux PC probably already know what they are doing (at least I'd hope so).
      mrdt
    • They'll never go back to Windows.

      "<i>Wait until those newbee home users wants to install an application on their new Linux PC. Ha! </i>"<br><br>Yeah won't they be shocked when they find out all their software is free and simple to install! Start "add/remove software" check off what applications are desired, click apply. Done!<br><br>Yeah their just going to hate that.... ;-)
      devlin_X
      • ... until something goes "wrong" ...

        and something always goes "wrong" ;-)
        Ross Snowden
      • Eh oh el.

        Yeah, ok. So what if the program you want isn't in that tiny list of programs?
        CreepinJesus
        • What decade are you speaking of?

          Have you looked in a modern distro's repositories? I know in the Ubuntu world alone there are literally thousands and that doesn't include software thats able to be used 3rd party.<br><br>Please no FUD. If you can't be honest just don't bother replying.....
          devlin_X
    • You're right, of course

      Loading a new application into an Ubuntu linux distribution from the named repository of Ubuntu or from the CNR warehouse is really complicated. One must connect to the repository. For the Ubuntu depository you must be able to click on the APPLICATIONS icon and then click on the ADD/REMOVE icon. Then you must actually choose the appoication to be added and "mark" it , with another click and then instruct the OS ti "install" the application, with, youu guessed it, still another click. The process is similar with CNR, but it does take fewer clicks.

      Now I want to see a video of a NEWBIE installing a new application in WINDOWS.
      Update victim