You must have heard that Canonical has killed the netbook edition of Ubuntu also known as UNR or Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Before you reach any conclusions, let me make it clear that Canonical is not withdrawing from the netbook segment.
The fact is there is no need for a netbook version of Ubuntu, as the interface used in netbooks (called Unity) has become the primary or default interface of Ubuntu. In another words Canonical is killing the desktop UI of Ubuntu
Gerry Carr has written on a company blog, “One of the benefits of the direction that’s been taken with the next release of Ubuntu is that there is no longer a need for a separate netbook edition. The introduction of the new shell for Ubuntu means that we have a user interface that works equally well whatever the form factor of the PC. And the underlying technology works on a range of architectures including those common in netbook, notebooks, desktops or whatever you choose to run it on. Hence the need for a separate version for netbooks is removed.”
The UNR did not have any additional features for netbooks other than the UI to make better use of smaller screen size. The question that arises from this decision is, do we need optimized OSes for netbooks?
Let’s be clear, netbooks are not desktops. I own couple of netbooks and at times I miss and OS optimized for netbook – something as fast as Google Chrome OS or MeeGo. An OS with the capability of instant on, which increases battery life and offers many more features exclusive to netbooks.
I don’t like comparisons in general, especially with proprietary products. But when we look at Apple Macbook Air (disclaimer, I don’t own any Apple products), we get an idea of what an ideal OS for netbook should be. No doubt Ubutu or any other OS can run on netbooks as well, so can Windows 7 or Windows XP, but we still miss an optimized OS for netbooks.
The question is: is there any market for Netbooks? I think there is a huge market for netbooks. I now see more netbooks than laptops. Just day before yesterday, we had a Numericable guy installing Internet at our home and he was carrying a netbook to check connectivity. One of my writer friends just bought a netbook as she finds it easier to carry it around and she can start writing reviews about the same restaurant where is having her lunch. So, there is a huge market for netbooks.
Gerry seems to agree, “To be clear, this is the opposite of us withdrawing from the netbook market. In fact looking at the download figures on ubuntu.com interest in netbooks is not only thriving but booming. It’s us recognising that the market has moved on and celebrating that separate images are no longer a requirement as the much anticipated convergence of devices moves closer.”
I do agree with Gerry that since Unity has become the default UI for Ubuntu there is no need for UNR, but at the same time I do feel that we need an OS optimized for netbooks. My question to Gerry and Canonical is, do we need to go back and use a desktop OS on netbooks or do we need to recognize netbooks as separate market and optimize our operating system to make better use of the hardware available?
I use Ubuntu Gnome (not Unity) on my netbooks, but I do miss features like instant on and there is more more left to be desired. Unfortunately, Ubuntu 10.10 doesn’t let me suspend to RAM, I had to tweak it manually. Windows of applications like Gwibber expand beyond the screen and it makes it harder to use it sometimes.
Chome or JoliCloud are not for me as I want complete control on my data and my computing. The primary reason behind moving to GNU/Linux was the ownership, the control over my data and my computing and a cloud based OS compromises that reason.
That leaves me with one OS, MeeGo. I wonder if Canonical will give it a thought an optimize a version of Ubuntu for netbooks? Ubuntu Air, may be!