Eee PC Desktop, But Can Linux Be a Viable Alternative?

By Mike on 10:23 pm

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Asus has always planned an entire Eee line. Their slogan says it all. "Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play." The idea was to make super low cost computers that could reach out to previously untapped markets. In most developed nations, having a PC is not only a luxury anymore but a requirement. Any university student these days will tell you. Asus noted that they plan to release a desktop variant of the Eee PC soon, starting at $199. DailyTech estimated that the final price will be in the ballpark of $299 given Asus's pricing record. There is little known about the system but prototype pictures have surfaced. It is a glossy black Small Form Factor PC, slightly larger than the Mac Mini. Like the Mini, it seems to feature a power brick. There is no solid information on specs but Asus said that it has "good enough" performance. (good enough, famous last words) The system will feature Hi-Fi digital stereo and Dolby Digital Live support, so it will have 5.1 audio. The system is also said to be quiet at 24dB. The word on the street is that it will use the new Intel Atom platform with the Diamondville processor core. The prototype picture also shows a likely 100mb/s ethernet port, DVI port, three analogue audio connectors, and at least two USB 2.0 ports. It will use the Eee PC's custom Xandros Linux based OS though a Windows XP version will likely be available. Other likely features will probably be a DVD/CDRW combo drive, 802.11g Wifi, and Intel integrated video processing. I doubt it will feature the solid state hard drive of the Eee PC in order to keep costs down.

Source: DailyTech

Thinking about this though, I wonder if Linux is really a viable OS for consumers. Most people probably aren't aware it even exists. Linux of course is a series of free, open source operating systems, not a single OS like some believe. I have PCLinuxOS installed on a computer that my parents use and they don't really seem to complain but then again, they just use it for web surfing. Any typing is done at their office, where the computers run Windows and MS Office.
Linux has numerous advantages to Windows. Namely, it doesn't cost anything for a fully legal copy, and it's usually pretty complete. Unlike OEM copies of Windows, Linux distributions usually include OpenOffice, image editors, etc. It also has one of the best 3D desktop interfaces around in the form of Beryl and Compiz. However, there is limited hardware support due to lack of drivers. Also, while some distros are easier to use than others, some basic tasks, such as installing drivers and programs, are still clumsy. Asus has really spiffed things up with their modified version of Xandros. Unfortunately, unlike most Linux distributions, Xandros is neither free nor open source. It's still significantly cheaper than Vista Home Basic is.

The problem is that Windows has an enormous amount of brand loyalty attached to it, and Microsoft knows this. Just go into any PC tech site and say you didn't like Vista and see the responses you get. When people buy a computer, they want it to have Windows so it can run Office, despite alternatives like OpenOffice being just as good. In addition, though Linux has a large open source community, there is almost no commercial software available for it. There is this general fear of free software out there. People believe that it is sub-par or contains viruses and spyware. Though some does, open source for the most part does not. Another issue is that most people simply aren't aware Linux even exists.

So can Linux ever be a viable alternative? Well, lets take a look at Mac OS X, which like Linux is also UNIX based. It has a sleek interface and tasks are easy and strait forward. However, like Microsoft, Apple too relies heavily on brand awareness and loyalty. The recent growth of Apple's market percentage I would directly, or at very least partially attribute to the trendy iPod. Toting a Mac around has become a bit the same as wearing designer clothes. The problem with Linux is lack of awareness. It is not mass marketed and is rarely if ever mentioned on TV, and for those averages Joes that do know about it, it's seen as an OS for hardcore geeks. I think unless it can reaches the ease of use and brand awareness of Windows and OS X, it can never be a viable alternative despite it's low cost.

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