Mandriva has announced that the Emtec GDium netbook will ship with Mandriva Linux. I kind of forgot about the GDium, what with all the excitement around the MSI Wind, Asus Eee PC 901/1000/1000H, and Acer Aspire One. But the Emtec GDium looks like an interesting machine with a 10 inch 1024 x 600 pixel display and a price tag around $430.
Probably the most interesting feature of the GDium is that it will ship without any internal storage. Instead, the operating system will be loaded onto a USB flash drive called a G-Key. That way you can save your entire work environment to a tiny stick that you can pop in your pocket. If you happen to work in an office with dozens of GDium computers, you can easily load up your workspace on any machine. This doesn’t seem like a situation that will arise very often, but you never know.
The XO Laptop and the Asus Eee PC have shown that it’s possible to create and market a low cost PC running Linux instead of Windows or OS X. But the thing about Linux is that there are hundreds of different varieties, if not more. So while Asus chose Xandros for the Eee PC, Acer went with Linpus Linux Lite for the Aspire One. Everex chose gOS for the Cloudbook, and the OLPC developers came up with their own custom Sugar OS for the XO Laptop.
But just because your computer comes with an operating system doesn’t mean it’s the only one you can use. The developers of the Mandriva Linux distribution have officially supported the Asus Eee PC for months. And Eee PC user have unofficially managed to get a whole slew of other operating systems to work on their hardware.
It’s nice to see the Mandriva team has managed to partner with Emtec to preload the OS onto the GDium’s G-Key drives. But I can’t help but wonder whether this cornucopia of Linux flavors is a good thing or a bad thing. Back when Linux was an operating system designed for hackers who were both capable and willing to spend time tweaking it to their own liking, it made sense to have a bunch of different distributions to choose from. But as computer makers start to ship products with Linux preloaded, will it just confuse customers if the OS on the Eee PC doesn’t look or work like the one on the Acer Aspire One or Emtec GDium?
Obviously Ubuntu has a huge share of the desktop Linux market, and Canonical is working on Ubuntu Netbook Remix, a custom version of the operating systm designed for low cost laptops. I don’t know if I’d really want to see the computer industry rally around one distro like Ubuntu as a way to push for some sort of standards. But it might make life a little eaiser for the general consumer. I’m fairly certain that Debian, Fedora, PCLinuxOS, Gentoo, and other enthusiasts will still figure out how to cram their distros of choice onto any hardware.
What do you think? Do we need a standard Linux distro for netbooks? Or is variety truly the spice of life?