The Linux Sweet Spot
Depending on where you live and who you are, the future is either already here, or just around the corner. Broadband Internet is everywhere, and access to information has never been easier. Earlier this year, Apple released the iPad, a technological marvel that has been selling like hotcakes, and now other companies are coming out with their version of the “iPad killer”. Unfortunately, just like iPod killers that have come before, they are doing it wrong. For any price point over five hundred, the average consumer is going to compare that device, when and if they become available, with the iPad and most likely choose Apple. To be successful on the next wave of Internet devices, the Linux price point has to go lower. Imagine the seventy-five dollar touch screen Linux tablet that does one thing, browse the web.
Apple’s iPad is a great device, but Apple is a very unique company, and not everyone is going to be able to afford even the lowest priced model. The Kindle is close, and has almost the right price point, but it’s meant for reading books, not browsing the web, the ability to browse is very much a secondary option. RealEase is taking OEM orders for the Shogo, which looks almost like a direct duplicate of the iPad, and a price to match at five-hundred dollars. What I can’t see is what the Shogo offers over the iPad for the same price. And anyway, for the kind of device I’m thinking of, it’s still too expensive. I’m thinking of taking the OLPC idea and cutting all of the unneeded software and hardware out of it until there is nothing left but a screen and a web browser.
The future is on the web, how one consumes it is of less importance the the ability to access it. More powerful devices can afford multiple applications that customize web services, but the information is the same. Linux is perfectly positioned to be the operating system of choice for very low cost, portable, almost throw-away devices.
The Chromium project has the right idea, but is being overshadowed by Android. What I’d like to see is an Android release that only had one app, the browser, and boots directly to the browser to get the device online as fast as possible. Low cost, low power chips, low cost memory, low cost flash storage, and the dropping price of touch screens means that the hardware is ready, will Linux be ready for the sub-hundred dollar tablet?