Dell working without Windows.
mchawk | August 19, 2008 at 03:41 amby
886 views | 28 Recommendations | 14 comments
How are they doing this? By cutting Microsoft out of the equation!
The project is called "Latitude ON", although some commentators think a better name would have been "Windows OFF."
What Dell is really doing here is building the equivalent of a secondary Asus Eee PC into a full-featured, full-size laptop. The Latitude On feature uses a low-power Intel ARM processor, flash storage and Linux (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10) separate from the laptop's main CPU, hard drive and Windows operating system. But unlike a subnotebook, the Latitude On system won't allow you to install applications. It's essentially a "cloud computing" device that depends on the Internet for much of its functionality.
ON's custom Web browser is based on Firefox. E-mail, "diary" and contacts are, of course, non-Microsoft applications. But some Microsoft data types are supported in one way or another. The system, for example, includes viewers for Microsoft Office documents (as well as for Adobe PDF documents). The built-in organizer grabs the 100 most recent Outlook e-mail messages from the laptop's cache and displays them.
From a Microsoft perspective, Latitude ON represents a debacle comparable to the UMPC disaster. Microsoft led a big push to drive sales of Vista -based Ultra-Mobile PCs, all of which failed catastrophically in the market, rejected by users in favor of first Linux-, then XP-based subnotebooks.
Now, it's happening again. Remember Windows Vista Sideshow? The feature was part of a broader effort by Microsoft to provide basic functionality on laptops while the main Windows OS was in sleep mode. A tiny screen on the lid would display the UI. Obviously that failed, and now partner Dell is delivering roughly similar but vastly superior functionality using Linux and other non-Microsoft software.
Based on all the information released so far, there is literally no downside (other than marginal additional cost).
The usefulness of these technologies stands in stark contrast to Microsoft Windows' ongoing slumber. When is the last time Microsoft rolled out something that boosted mobility the way these new features do?
The "old Microsoft" would have never allowed all this. The company would have leveraged its multi-billion dollar labs to figure all this out first, then, coerced Intel, Dell and the rest of the industry into supporting it. Now, Microsoft is on the sidelines while its closest partners innovate using companies that compete with Microsoft in the software marketplace.
When will Microsoft itself wake up from "sleep mode"?
This comes in the wake of Microsoft being forced by the marketplace to continue to support XP, after UMPC manufacturers rejected Vista in favour of Linux - for the strain that Vista puts on computer processors and the buyer's wallet. XP is emerging as a popular OS for the ultra-mobile market, but for how much longer will that OS be available? Once it's gone, Microsoft has no viable replacement. Linux could become the de-facto OS for UMPCs, in a market that is growing exponentially.
Does this mean that, finally, Microsoft will have to come down from its ivory tower and actually start listening to the customer? How ironic that, now that the ubiquity of home computers has spawned a generation of tech-savvy consumers, the dominance of Microsoft has been questioned by the very market they created.
Although a Microsoft OS will no doubt dominate home computing for the foreseeable future, perhaps the adoption of Linux in the emerging UMPC market will give Microsoft pause for thought and lead to genuine choice for the consumer, and actual marketplace competition for the first time in decades.
Marcel PellerinThese members have powered this story: