LAB IMPRESSIONS

Open PC is Mac deja vu all over again

Open-source PC’s strength is also its weakness: Linux

Back in 1984, when Apple started selling the Macintosh after what is probably the most famous Super Bowl ad of all time, many thought it was the dawn of a new era. It began to look as if someone could come along and challenge IBM's and Microsoft’s powerful hold on the personal computing market.

However, the vast differences in how the Mac operating system worked kept many software developers from creating entirely new versions of their programs. That and keeping the hardware proprietary instead of opening it up to third-party manufacturers pretty much stopped the Mac from grabbing a larger piece of the pie than it ultimately did.

Now the Open-PC.com Team has announced the release of the Open-PC, the first wide-distribution desktop platform for the Linux community, available at the end of February. It is a low-cost, low-energy use desktop with a Linux operating system. Targeted at both the introductory and experienced user, all of its applications and drivers other than the BIOS are open-source and free. Sounds like just the ticket to seize a huge chunk of the desktop PC market, right?

Well, maybe. I think one of the big reasons it won’t is because Linux users can’t agree on what version of anything is best. They all have their favorites for every aspect of computer operation, and often can’t even agree on what the desktop should look like. Even now there are grumblings on the Open-PC Web site about the software choices. It kind of reminds me of the freedom fighter group in the movie “Life of Brian.” The one thing that kept them from forming an effective resistance was they hated all of the other resistance groups worse than the Romans.

The other thing that might keep this from sweeping the planet is the price. Open-PC Team is planning on retailing the Open-PC for 359 euros, which equates to a little more than $500. While this may seem reasonable to most conventional desktop PC users, it still might not be close enough to Linux folks’ favorite price — free. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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