Clear Linux OS is a desktop and server operating system optimized for computers with Intel processors — and since it’s developed by Intel, it’s not surprising that Intel-powered systems running Clear Linux score higher in benchmarks than those with just about any other GNU/Linux distribution. It also runs well on systems with AMD processors.

One thing Clear Linux hasn’t been great for though? Running apps that rely on proprietary, third-party repositories such Google’s Chrome web browser or Valve’s Steam game client.

But according to a report from Phoronix, that could change soon.

The article points to a recent discussion in the Clear Linux listserv — when asked about the progress for a “commercial channel for proprietary software,” Intel’s Arjan van de Ven responded that:

the 3rd party repo stuff is in the code, what we lack most of all is documentation and testing, so … lets call it early early beta but anyone can now make 3rd party repos in principle. I’m sure there’ll be some rough edges obviously as we mature the feature by using it

Support for popular (but not entirely open source) software like Steam, Chrome, or Spotify could make Clear Linux more of a viable desktop operating system for end users.

Theoretically you can already install some of those applications today by using Flatpak installers, which bundle apps and all their dependencies into a single package. But software installed by Flatpak can often take up more disk space than applications installed from a repository and they also often fail to match the native look and feel of an operating system or desktop environment.

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  1. I’ve used Clear on my main computer for about half a year till about January. It is somehwat limited, yes, but within those limits it is actually pretty great. And yes, the performance difference is actually noticeable, especially on marginal hardware like mine – an older midrange ultrabook.

    The reason I’ve veered away from it was because I ran into a couple of dumb bugs introduced by the distro maintainers which I couldn’t wait around for, plus I needed to use Insync (which is proprietary).

    As soon as this 3rd party repo thing starts working properly, and I can hook up into Fedora’s non-free repos or whatever, I will be back on board.

    Brad: everything looks good on the theme now, even the fonts. Thanks for the hard work!

    1. All the feedback I received was certainly helpful in identifying trouble spots. So thank you as well!

      And thanks for sharing your experience with Clear Linux. I loaded it in a VM today and it looks pretty nice. But I can see how the limited support for non-free, third-party repos could be a problem for some users.

      1. Beware the VMs.

        I can’t remember whether the Clear iso defaults to Xorg or Wayland, but GNOME doesn’t really develop for Xorg any more, and most virtualisation solutions struggle with Wayland. So your experience will be sub-par in either case.

        Since the main selling points of the distro are performance and robustness:
        – you won’t get a good idea of the performance unless you at least try the live iso.
        – and you can only get a sense of the distro’s robustness if you actually run it for a while (and I would understand if you do not want to make that kind of commitment).

        Basically, would recommend at least the live iso.

        For performance, this was my experience: basically Firefox under Clear and without video decoding acceleration consumes as much CPU/GPU cycles as Chromium with video acceleration on other distros. When I say the performance difference is noticeable, I mean it is actually noticeable.

  2. I hope they do well in cloud, but I would never run a corporate linux version on my home box. Too much big brother stuff.

    1. Hey, look, if it gets people thinking about moving away from Windows and MacOS, I’m all for it. Average users are scared enough about jumping into Linux, so being able to see familiar programs will be good for them.

      1. YCAU is correct.
        Although it’s a little ironic that Intel had the opportunity to dominate the computer industry, back when they were partnered to Moblin and Nokia. They pretty much sabotaged the MeeGo Project, as they were trying to defend their old business model.

        The industry has changed. Android is now the dominant computing ecosystem. AMD is taking over the WinTel class. And the lucrative Cloud/Server industry which was tied to Xeon-Microsoft is eroding, as ARM-Linux solutions take over.

        It’s like Blockbuster not buying Netflix, and not starting their own streaming service, because they wanted to protect their previous business model: Late Fees. Intel will still be around, but probably in a much much smaller capacity, like 15-20% of their current state.

        The faster moving competitors like Samsung and Google, as opposed to Intel and Microsoft, are the ones more likely to be successful in the long-term.

        1. AMD is taking over the WinTel class

          That’s waaaay overstating the current situation. The only market AMD is taking over at the moment is the enthusiasts market. Everything else — overall desktops (18%), laptops (13%), and servers (5%) — they are still far behind Intel. Sure AMD is going to make inroads over the next couple of years (and I hope they do) but even after two years, they’ll still be in the minority of CPU sales by some distance.