Ross Rubin Editorial on Linux Internet Devices
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm the NPD Group, has posted a thought-provoking piece entitled "The Linux Ultraportable Opportunity" in his Engadget blog column. While not necessarily relevant to Palm Inc. and their immediate stable of products, anyone waiting with bated breath on Palm's next-generation Nova OS would be well-served to begin paying at least passing attention to the increasingly crowded market of portable, affordable devices running some distribution of Linux.
Rubin's article focuses on a product segment that has recently blazing hot: the rise of the affordable, Linux-based subnotebook PC. Rubin notes the rapid rise of Linux into the mobile market in devices such as the Asus EEE PC HP Mini-Note and Everex's Cloudbook. He correctly points out that Microsoft's bloated and clunky Vista and Windows Mobile OSes cannot, even alongside the immortal Windows XP recently given a stay of execution, hope to stave off Linux forever.
"It is no coincidence that, mirroring Microsoft's product gap between Windows Mobile and Windows Vista, the historically hazy and suddenly hot device space between the cellphone and the notebook is emerging as the best shot yet for the Linux desktop."
While the article unfortunately does not mention Palm's stillborn Linux-based Foleo subnotebook from 2007, Rubin does mention Palm's efforts to move Palm OS forward on the back of its Linux-based Nova initiative, ironically announced a little over a year ago.
Rubin also points out on an interesting shift in the "affordable" Linux-based OS camp: when the hardware specs are beefed up to provide a comparable experience to entry-level Wintel notebooks, the price advantage enjoyed by these Linux-powered devices immediately vanishes. This problem was one of the main criticisms leveled at Palm's canceled Foleo last year. Indeed, an Asus EEE PC, even with weak specs, is a much more appealing device at $300 or less than it does at $500+. With even the lowest-end EEE PC possessing far more out of the box capabilities and hardware power than Palm's Foleo, Palm's (and in all likelihood, Jon Rubinstein's) decision to cancel the project at the 11th hour looks even more brilliant in hindsight.
Ross Rubin's full Out of the Box blog containing many additional Linux-powered subnotebook musings can be found here.