Linux distro Jolicloud: the future of netbooks?

If netbooks have a future it will be through operating environments like this.

Jolicloud, a Linux distribution for small memory netbooks based on Ubuntu, has been released under Version 1.0.

An early reviewer at Webupd8.org notes it's very Internet dependent and user-friendly, but it lacks applications and new ones must come in via the terminal. That sounds bad, but the anonymous reviewer said he was very impressed.

Former netvibes CEO Tariq Krim (right, from ZDNet UK) is behind Jolicloud. Originally a journalist with La Tribune in France, he says his aim is to see Internet connections become permanent so a kind of collective intelligence can be built.

Some of his other past projects include l8rmedia and Generationmp3. His most recent personal blog post is about France's need for a CTO. Given his journalism background you might say he has a flair for self-promotion. (Please don't say that if Om Malik is Dean Martin, then Krim is Jerry Lewis. That joke has been done.)

Jolicloud is in the process of burning through $4.2 million in venture capital from Atomico Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners.

I would have loved something like this when covering CompuTex in Taiwan last year. Early netbooks running chip memory had very small main drives, and Windows quickly became useless on them. The lack of a proper Broadcom WiFi chip driver bricked the unit when I tried to put Ubuntu on it later. I plan to pull it out and give this a try.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK has an interview with Krim this week, in which he said the launcher is based on HTML5, that it uses code from Google's Chrome OS (he called Chromium his middleware), and that one of its big advantages is it lets you "re-sync" to other installations, meaning your data is backed up automatically.

The business model is based on cloud services, with JoliCloud as an entry point, Krim said.

On the down side netbooks like the one I used last year are no longer considered interesting, having been replaced by devices like smartphones that come equipped with their own OS. On the upside what's tired in Silicon Valley is often considered wired in much of the rest of the world. If netbooks have a future it will be through operating environments like this.