First look: Intel's Moblin 2.0 Linux desktop for netbooks

Over the past few days I've been taking Intel's Moblin 2.0 Linux desktop for netbooks for a spin. Can Intel compete with its long-time partner Microsoft in the operating system game?

Over the past few days I've been taking Intel's Moblin 2.0 Linux desktop for netbooks for a spin. Can Intel compete with its long-time partner Microsoft in the operating system game?

Check out the Moblin 2.0 image gallery

Moblin has had an odd history. Back in April Intel handed over its Moblin mobile Linux project to the Linux Foundation and many took that as a sign that the chip giant wanted to walk away from the project. However, since then Intel announced that it was working with Novell to bring Moblin to netbook desktops.It seems that rather than walk away from Moblin, Intel wanted the project to be seen as a Linux project and not an Intel project.

Moblin is an interesting project that's based on a Fedora Linux backbone, it uses a GNOME desktop and apps. But it's also different from every Linux distro I've seen too.

So how is Moblin different? Well, rather than being application-centric like most operating systems, it's function-centric. So rather than firing up a browser, you have a specific tab on the menu bar to change your Twitter status or access the Internet. The home screen, called the M-Zone, is the user's command center for seeing what social network pals are up to and communicating with them.

Does this function-centric approach work? Well, personally I don't think it does. When I first loaded it up I was confronted by a whole raft of mystery meat navigation. The only way to figure out what something did was to randomly click about and see what happened. I'm not sure if the problem boils down to the interface just not being usable, or to whether the OS still needs a lot of work doing to it. The current state of the OS seems to turn a netbook into a very limited device, and I can see some users never being able to figure out how to add useful applications such as office apps onto their netbook. The same complaint could be leveled at any Windows-based system, but Linux distros usually make downloading and installing more apps easy.

This project could deliver a nice, workable OS for netbooks, but for now I'm left feeling that the OS turns a netbook into a Fisher Price "My First Twittering Netbook" platform.

Thoughts?