Penguin in Your Notebook
One could call it a historic moment. Hewlett-Packard today announced the shipment of one of their notebook lines with a Linux variant known as SuSE. SuSE was acquired by Novell about a year ago. After watching its fortunes disappear into thin air, mainly due to competition from microsoft on the server side, Novell is now trying to muscle in its way into the desktop market but I wonder if laptops are ideal vehicles to go about this.
Don't get me wrong. I adore Linux. But where Linux truly shines is in a server role. Be it a Web server, mail server, print server, file server, or a firewall, it can outperform Windows any day. Sure, setting up a Linux server is an arcane task, but once up and running, it's stable, graceful, and frugal with the resources.
On the desktop, Linux is a different story. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Suddenly this splendid product turns into an unreliable and ugly beast with little to offer. Not to detract from the devoted developers, but the desktop still has far to go to catch up to Windows.
Now let's go back to this notebook offering from HP. With only a meager 5% cost savings over an equivalent Windows notebook, only the absolute Linux fanatics would possibly opt for it. Even I wouldn't order a Linux'ed laptop. A laptop is a mobile device designed to be taken on business trips, remote offices, and vacations. Most laptop users are busy executives and salespeople, and many don’t care to get technical with it. The next time they are in their hotel rooms and have a problem establishing a network connection, I wonder how many people in the hotel's IT staff will be familiar enough with Linux to offer a helping hand.
Linux on notebook is a valiant effort, but while Windows soars like an eagle, it does appear that this penguin just wasn't meant to fly.