Linux is about to hit big, and Ubuntu is leading the charge. The open source operating system, made freely available by a large community of dedicated developers, may soon conquer the smartphone market with PC-phone hybrids, and may soon become the hip operating system for PCs and notebooks, thanks to shifts in technology and the PC market.
The story of Ubuntu’s looming conquest begins with the Google Chromebook. The cloud-dependent notebooks are currently the top-selling notebooks on Amazon. The notebooks offer very little in terms of on-disk storage, gaming, and power. Rather, what the Chromebooks bring is wonderful usability—lightning-fast boot times, long battery lives, and peace of mind when it comes to viruses and malware.
The success of the Chromebook is actually very telling of where the market is heading. Its success is a statement that in a world where smartphones and tablets are becoming popular tools for daily computing, people more interested in convenience than power.
Price is also a major point. While you can pick up a Chromebook for $199, you’re looking to pay at least $350 for a half-decent Windows PC, and a good $1,000 or more for a Mac notebook.
Microsoft and Apple are starting to run into other trouble though.
Microsoft’s trouble stems mainly from Windows 8. The operating system is great for touchscreens, but it’s terrible for everything else. A popular video analysis by freelance journalist Brian Boyko deemed Windows 8 nearly unusable, proclaiming that it should be recalled by Microsoft.
Macs, meanwhile, are starting to lose their charm. Apple used to justify their high price tags with great security and a pleasant interface. The security perk is nearly gone, however, now that crackers are starting to turn their sights on the nearly unguarded operating system. The interface is still nice though.
This is where Ubuntu comes in. It has great security, a pleasant and user-friendly interface, and it’s free. Unlike most other Linux operating systems, Ubuntu is designed to be easy enough for just about anyone to use.
Yet, Ubuntu has something the others don’t have, and this is where its real charm comes in: it’s an open system. If you want to install another operating system, it won’t give you trouble. Want to delete it? Fine. Would you like to customize it, play with its code, change it around? Ubuntu won’t give you any hassle.
Windows and Mac OS, meanwhile, are both closed systems—and this is starting to harm them.
The incredibly closed system of Windows 8 is fueling Ubuntu’s rise. Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve, said during the Casual Connect video game conference in July 2012 that Windows 8 “is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space,” according to All Things Digital.
Newell then proclaimed that his company would start leaning towards Linux, beginning with a Ubuntu version of Steam—one of the top gaming platforms and markets—and porting games to work on Linux.
A recent announcement as the CES technology conference unveiled the first major development of Newell’s vision, the Piston. The mini-PC with Steam at its heart was created by Valve and hardware vendor Xi3 and is rumored to run on Linux.
The other major charge is taking place with Ubuntu for Android and the upcoming Ubuntu phones—and these aren’t your usual smartphones.
As the name suggests, Ubuntu for Android works on the Android OS, but it introduces a new form of computing. Ubuntu for Android will pioneer the PC-smartphone hybrid market. It lets users install Ubuntu on their smartphones. When they’re at home, they can then plug their phones into a monitor, mouse, and keyboard and use them like PCs.
The Ubuntu Phone OS, meanwhile, was recently announced by Canonical and will introduce Ubuntu smartphones alongside those with Android and iOS. The Ubuntu Phone OS has an interface designed to be as user-friendly as possible. The operating system can also work on low-end smartphones.
According to the Ubuntu website, the phone OS is a touch-based interface for Ubuntu that “uniquely enables convergence of the mobile and PC worlds, boasting a stunning interface and rich developer ecosystem.”
The lack of supported software on Linux operating systems has been a long-time flaw. But the tides are changing. The significance of the upcoming Ubuntu phones and Steam’s hope to make Linux a viable gaming platform, is that developers will likely start turning their sights to Ubuntu.
Meanwhile, the success of the Chromebook shows the growing popularity of cloud-computing, which is based on technology that nearly any operating system can tap into—including Ubuntu.
Then there is the growing abundance of high-quality open source software that is readily available on Ubuntu, free of charge. OpenOffice and LibreOffice, in particular, have already made Ubuntu a viable workspace for small and medium businesses.
Get ready. As Ubuntu phones bring attention to the operating system, and as software developers make it more and more appealing for users to switch over, we’ll see the castles of Microsoft and Apple begin to crumble beneath the communal power of open source.