Dell looks to Moblin for Linux future

July 16, 2009 4:21 PM EDT
In a recent blog posting, Dell Technology Strategist, Doug Anson, said that Dell, as I wrote last week, was considering selling Google's new Chrome OS in its netbooks. That's interesting, but what I found far more interesting was that Anson seemed a lot more interest in Moblin, the new mobile Internet device, operating system for Dell.

Anson opened by talking about Google Chrome OS. He wrote, "Given that Google has made it clear that the Chrome OS will be available in the second half of 2010, there's still a lot of time to see how this will develop. As with most new technology, Dell plans to evaluate the Chrome OS and other alternative operating environments, like we've done in the past. Luckily (for me!), Dell enjoys a great relationship with Google. As we have more details to share on the topic, we'll do it here."

Fine and dandy, but what caught my attention was that he went on to talk about how "Alternative operating systems, continue to evolve, flourish and prosper." Specifically, what he finds interesting about them is that "These alternative operating environments are truly "different" from the traditional Windows platform - they don't attempt to simply 'mimic' Windows." Sure, Anson admits that that can be a problem, but "these alternative operating environments attempt to address this shortcoming by focusing their feature set with a self-directed experience: entice and direct the user to its strengths."

And, then he gets into Moblin. Moblin started as an Intel's house-brand of Linux for netbook processors like Intel's Atom CPU family. But, last April, Intel surprised everyone by turning Moblin over to the Linux Foundation.

Anson wrote, "Moblin is the next evolutionary step of the traditional Linux environment where focus on smaller devices and small screens is a requirement. It takes a different approach to its user experience from either Dell's current offering or Ubuntu Netbook Remix by further simplifying the self-directedness of the desktop - no user guide should be needed to learn how to use Moblin. Additionally, Moblin replaces some of the traditional Linux applications, such as media players, browsers, etc..., with equivalent versions that have been specifically optimized to align with this new design behavior/look and feel of Moblin."

Let me note in passing that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, is already working with Moblin. I expect to see mixes of Moblin and Ubuntu Netbook Remix on systems by year's end.

Anson goes on to describe and praise Moblin. He concludes "Users of Moblin see a targeted feature set (browsing, social networking/email, media) and the entire Moblin desktop directs and focuses the user on those features. Dell is very interested in Moblin at present and is working very closely with its key Moblin partners (Intel and Canonical) investigating potential offerings."

In other words, I'd look for a Dell Moblin powered mobile Internet device-perhaps a tablet?--before 2009 is done. I don't think we're going to see a Moblin-powered netbook out of Dell. Ubuntu and UNR fit that space to a T. It sounds to me that Anson is clearly hinting that Dell will be bringing out an entirely new kind of device. And, as for Chrome OS, that's a concern for 2010, not 2009. As Anson might say, we have interesting times ahead in client computing.