OpenSolaris Coming to Toshiba Laptops--Continuing a Trend
Slowly but surely, major laptop vendors are taking to the idea of shipping systems with pre-loaded open source operating systems. The latest case in point is Toshiba--one of the longest-standing players in the market for portable computers--and its new plan to pre-install Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris on its laptops. The machines are supposed to ship in early 2009, and will join several new Linux-based systems that Dell is shipping, and many Linux-based netbooks arriving from various hardware manufacturers. Will this trend continue?
As I see it, a huge part of the trend toward open source operating systems on portable computers is extreme price-consciousness among buyers. For only a little more than you pay for a Linux netbook, you can get a laptop with more hardware resources running Windows. But the fact is, the machines running open source software are cheaper--and cheaper is cheaper in this economic environment.
I'm not so sure how popular laptops running OpenSolaris are going to be. Sun has struggled to gain adoption for the operating system. But one of the reasons Linux-based netbooks are selling so well is that they come pre-installed with lots of useful open source software applications. That's the key one-two punch in the eyes of the buyer: "I save money on the hardware running the open source operating system, and I pay no money for useful applications."
Lenovo and other hardware manufacturers aren't buying into this trend as quickly as others, but as long as people stay so careful with their pennies, market share for portable computers running open source software is going to increase. eWeek has some interesting corroboration of the trend, coming from IBM. The next shoe that is likely to drop will be the availability of more offers like the Acer Aspire One netbooks now available at Radioshack for $99. These require you to sign a monthly broadband contract with AT&T for $60 a month, but the buy-in price for the hardware is low. The Acers run Windows XP, but I won't be surprised to see Linux-based systems offered at rock-bottom prices with these types of contracts as well.